Lecture | China Seminar
Reconfiguring Queer Chineseness: Hong Kong as Method
- 19 September 2018
- China Seminar
2311 BD Leiden
- Lipsius 130
In response to the transnational turn of queer studies, the last two decades saw the emergence of queer Chinese studies as a burgeoning field that has actively situated Chinese-speaking communities outside the People’s Republic of China (e.g. Hong Kong, Taiwan) within the transnational frames of what have been described as queer Chinese roots and queer Chinese routes (Martin 2015). Departing from the existing scholarship emphasising either the continuity of Chinese ethnicity or the multiplicity of Chinese identities, this lecture sets up its context by highlighting how the framing of queer Chineseness has perpetuated the assumption that Hong Kong is incapable of producing knowledge to understand itself or generating theories to inform other queer formations outside China. Consequently, it not only subordinates Hong Kong to a peripheral position whose representations always depend on the presence of China, but also prevents the cultivation of local critical efforts towards meaningful understandings of local queer struggles.
Based on an ethnographic study of the influences of class on the subjective production of Hong Kong gay men, this lecture provides a perspective highlighting the ways in which inequalities are reproduced in local queer culture amid proliferating sexual progress. Anchored in a specific set of compressed economic transformations affecting postwar Hong Kong, the study understands class as a relatively recent formation that is linked to an unprecedented condition of rapid upward mobility and the emergence of Hong Kong identity since the 1970s. Although class was not commonly spoken about by the informants, their understandings of class were nevertheless displaced into other categories of social difference (i.e. age, generation, race and culture) which have come to inform their struggles and aspirations as queer subjects. By examining the inarticulability and displacements of class as symptoms of compressed economic modernisation, this study reveals the locally specific cultural logics that not only safeguarded the reproduction of inequalities but also rendered any resistance impossible.
Arguing for the revitalisation of class as a useful analytic category in enabling a fresh perspective of Hong Kong queer culture beyond the framing of queer Chineseness, this lecture concludes by exploring how Hong Kong can serve as a method towards localising queer studies in other East Asian societies which went through similar trajectories of economic development.
Ting-Fai Yu received his PhD in gender studies (anthropology) from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2017. He is currently a research fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), Leiden University. His work has focused on the intersection of sexuality, social inequality and critical methodologies in Asian studies.