ACLA 2022: Queer Asia in Crisis
American Comparative Literature Association 2022 Annual Meeting
National Taiwan Normal University
Queer Asia in Crisis
The notion of “Queer Asia,” whether implied or stated directly, is a paradox. On the one hand, it refers to the ways in which queer Asian subjects are positioned within the grid of geopolitical homoerotic power relations as submissive, subjugated, or (in the case of gay male subjects) castrated and feminized (Fung 1991; Atkins 2012; Lim 2013) subjects. On the other hand, Queer Asia” has been reclaimed by intellectuals and activists as a framework through which novel forms of sexualities may be reproduced and radical forms of anti-colonial, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist critiques may be marshalled (Nguyen 2014; Liu 2015; Luther and Loh 2019; Chiang and Wong 2020). This proposed seminar invites scholars in the field to build on these conversations by placing “Queer Asia” within the entanglements of contemporary global crises.
The relationship between queer politics and crises is not new. Queer movements after all occurred during and were exacerbated by various crises and political turning points: the Civil Rights movement, the AIDS pandemic, among other things. The recent biomedical and social crises have given rise to texts and practices that either mobilize or undo the radicalizing potential of “Queer Asia.” We can think of how Boys Love (BL) web series enjoyed extensive wide viewership in the East and Southeast Asian region during the COVID-19 pandemic and how these new series were produced in places under authoritarian and militarized economies. We can think of Call Her Ganda (2018), a documentary on the murder of Filipina transwoman Jennifer Laude at the hands of Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton (Pemberton was convicted but pardoned by President Rodrigo Duterte). We can think of the politics of pinkwashing in the figuration of Tel Aviv as a queer city in the middle of the escalating conflict between Israel and Palestine. We can think of the contradictions brought about by the now postponed Hong Kong Gay Games as it finds itself entangled in the larger politics of a city positioning itself as both an international hub and China’s special administrative region. We can think of queer Asian-Americans as they contend with the increase in racialized attacks in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The seminar thus seeks to explore the double meaning of “Queer Asia in Crisis.” On the one hand, we seek to examine how the recent global and regional crises produced emergent forms of queer texts and practices in Queer Asia. On the other hand, taking a leaf from David Eng, Jack Halberstam and Jose Esteban Muñoz’s seminal piece “What’s So Queer About Queer Studies Now?” (2005), we position “Queer Asia” as a term that too is in crisis. Put another way, we hope to ask: in the face of widespread social unrest, economic inequality, and death, where can we possibly locate the radicalizing potential of “Queer Asia” as an interpretive approach and an ethics of transgression and possibility?