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Conditional Spaces

Conditional Spaces: Hong Kong Lesbian Desires and Everyday Life

Denise Tse-Shang Tang
Series: Queer Asia
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 204
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  • Book Info
    Conditional Spaces
    Book Description:

    This book offers an in-depth sociological study on Hong Kong lesbian and transgender lesbian subjectivities and their materialization within multiple spaces. Based on thirty life history interviews, the author attempts to map the complex relations between lesbian subjectivities and spatialities as they emerge, develop, interact and negotiate with each other in their everyday lives. Drawing upon theories on cultural studies, feminism, postcolonialism, urban sociology and queer theory, this book positions Hong Kong as a late capitalist city and neoliberal economy, to bring the notion of sexuality and spaces together in a theoretical exercise in order to focus on the forces that determine the conditions and possibilities for the materialization of lesbian and transgender lesbian desires and identities. Tang investigates social relations within certain spaces and make linkages between a living room, a busy street, a classroom, a church congregation, a workplace and a queer film festival. Hong Kong women with lesbian desires and transgender lesbians can be understood as exclusionary to some spaces but participatory in the constant development of new sites where their needs and intimate desires are met. Tang concludes that a preliminary analysis of spaces in Hong Kong can be rooted in a physical sense but also proposes conditional spatiality as a theoretical concept to understand the emergence and disappearance of spaces.

    eISBN: 978-988-8053-79-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Note on Romanization and Translation
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    There is an urgency to understanding the city of Hong Kong through its spaces. A city with a population of 7 million living on only 25 percent of its developed land, the portrayal of Hong Kong as a geographic token of urban density has prompted many studies.¹ It can be perceived as a global fascination with how one city has managed to cope with limited physical land space and a dense population. The city’s economy is heavily dependent on land development and property sales. If I take the state imposed policy of land scarcity as a contributing factor to the...

  7. 1 Living Spaces
    (pp. 23-40)

    One of my first interviews takes place on a bunk bed. Twenty-year-old Bik Bik sits across from me at the lower level of the bunk while I sit on her flatmate’s bed. Personal belongings are on the bed with clothing hanging over the railings and a laptop at the end of the mattress. With less than two feet across from each bed, we start our two-hour interview in a tiny and intimate space. I ask her about the episode where her parents read her personal letters.

    Actually when I was in Form Two, they found the letters that I wrote...

  8. 2 Consumption Spaces
    (pp. 41-64)

    Lesbian spaces as sites of resistance have been studied in the last decade with social geographer Gill Valentine urging geographers and urban sociologists to map lesbian neighbourhoods “from nowhere to everywhere” (Valentine 2000, 1). Notions of resistance have taken on multiple meanings within major theoretical strands such as postcolonialism, feminism, cultural geography, postmodernism, Marxism and queer theories. A mapping of resistance points to the interrelations and competing influences these theoretical strands have on each other. In this chapter, I will investigate how lesbian commercial spaces function as temporary sites of resistance for Hong Kong lesbians to validate their identities, form...

  9. 3 Regulatory Spaces
    (pp. 65-88)

    Certain spaces are often identified as of a predominantly regulatory and surveillance nature. Named commonly among informants, these everyday spaces include religious institutions, schools and workplaces. Interviewees have also developed coping strategies to handle crises, including being outed by colleagues, chastised in churches and bullied by classmates. I am concerned with the intersectionality of these spaces and what they mean for Hong Kong women and transgender people with lesbian desires, and how these groups of people materialize their experiences within these settings, how they negotiate their sexualities by being strategic through “spatial practices” (de Certeau 1984, 115).

    In this chapter,...

  10. 4 Political Spaces
    (pp. 89-112)

    I came to understand Hong Kong tongzhi politics as a dual process of g/localization and regionalization of sexual rights, by this I mean a continuous translation and repositioning of sexualities from global influences, Chinese regional information flows and localized meanings. A productive reading of what counts as tongzhi politics is to take this term apart and to critically investigate each word. Who counts as a tongzhi? How is this identity perceived and used or maybe slated and rejected among the informants? How is politics conceived, imagined and enacted in one’s personal life? Is it a necessary composition of one’s sexual...

  11. 5 Cultural Spaces
    (pp. 113-126)

    A discussion of queer spaces often leads to further questions such as what counts as a queer space, how do they emerge and who has access to them?¹ The emergence of queer spaces in the last decade can be traced back to a number of incidents that occurred in Hong Kong in the post-1997 era. As mentioned in the last chapter, many scholars have noted the uncertainty of the period — the change of government from the British colonial administration to Mainland Chinese authorities — describing it as one of the primary reasons for the urgency of a tongzhi activist agenda. The...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 127-140)

    It is very rare for a film to resonate with me as much as Yau Ching’s Ho Yuk: Let’s Love Hong Kong, so much so that it called for a slightly different response.³ A counter script perhaps, to encounter the imaginary lesbian bodies, voices and desires on screen. Or are they imaginary? Chan Kwok Chan (Wong Chung Ching), Zero (Erica Lam) and Nicole (Colette Koo), as the film’s female protagonists, are intricately connected and disconnected in a setting described as a not-so-distant future. A future that awaits us.

    I imagine that if I begin to unravel the mysteries of Ho...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 141-152)
  14. Profile of Informants
    (pp. 153-158)
  15. Methodological Notes
    (pp. 159-170)
  16. Interview Guide
    (pp. 171-176)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 177-190)
  18. Index
    (pp. 191-194)