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Situating Sexualities

Situating Sexualities: Queer Representation in Taiwanese Fiction, Film and Public Culture

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 372
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  • Book Info
    Situating Sexualities
    Book Description:

    This is the first book in English to analyse the stunning rise to prominence of cultures of dissident sexuality in Taiwan during the 1990s. Positioned at the crossroads of queer theory and postcolonial cultural studies, this book intervenes in current debates on sexuality and globalization to argue that the current emergence of public, dissident sexualities in non-Western locations like Taiwan cannot be reduced to the effects of homogenizing 'Westernization'. Instead, Situating Sexualities approaches the queer sexualities represented in recent Taiwanese fiction, film and public culture as dynamic formations that combine local knowledge with globalizing discourses on gay and lesbian identity to produce sexualities that are multiple, shifting and inherently hybrid. Equally, the book pushes out the limits of 'queer' to challenge the Eurocentrism of much queer theory to date. Consistently critical of essentializing accounts of 'Chinese' culture, the book nevertheless highlights some of the important ways in which Taiwanese formations of dissident sexuality differ from the familiar Euro-American formations.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-277-1
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Note to Reader
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction: Mobile Knowledges — Sexualities in Globalization
    (pp. 1-44)

    This passage appeared in June 1994 as part of a foreword in the second issue of the Taiwan lesbian magazine Ai Fu Hao Zizai Bao (Ai Bao: Love Paper), a special issue on ‘Queer Nation’. Founded in December 1993, Ai Bao was Taiwan’s first openly available lesbian or gay magazine. It represents one manifestation of a larger transformation in discourses on homosexuality in 1990s Taiwan, a transformation that can also be seen as part of a broad series of tectonic shifts taking place concurrently in cultures of gender and sexuality right across the Asian region.¹ In Taiwan, the 1990s witnessed...

  6. Section 1: The National, the Global and the Local in New Park

    • 1 Nationalism, Reproduction, Homosexuality: Political Critiques of Crystal Boys
      (pp. 47-72)

      This section of the book grounds the figurations, refigurations, and contestations of tongxinglian that it examines upon the discursive and geographic site(s) of Taipei’s New Park (Xin Gongyuan). New Park is Taiwan’s best known gay male cruising area and has been alternately notorious and celebrated as such at least since the 1983 publication of prominent modernist author Pai Hsien-yung’s novel Crystal Boys, which tells the stories of a group of young male sex workers and their patrons who gathered in the park in the 1970s. Pai’s novel has been widely discussed and acclaimed both by the mainstream literary establishment and...

    • 2 Happy Hopeful Citizens and Critical Queers: Interpreting The New New Park
      (pp. 73-100)

      In the previous chapter I outlined the logic of the jia-guo, ascendant in Taiwan in the years before martial law was lifted at the end of the 1980s, and continuing in contemporary models of a transnational but culturally unified ‘Greater China’. In this chapter, while continuing to loiter about the site of Taipei’s New Park, I begin thinking about how more recent reformulations of nation and city in Taiwan’s current period of increased economic and cultural globalization open up new ways of imagining sexual subjects, which may not be so easily reducible to that enclosing familial-national logic. Recent discussions of...

    • 3 Postmodern Cities and Viral Subjects: Notes of a Desolate Man
      (pp. 101-116)

      In Chapters 1 and 2, I have examined how the homosexual signifiers tongxinglian and tongzhi are produced in relation to the imaginaries of ‘Chinese’ nation and Taipei City: imaginaries of location. In this chapter I am interested in the way in which Chu T’ien-wen’s prize-winning 1994 novel, Huangren Shouji (published in 1999 in Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin’s English translation as Notes of a Desolate Man), writes ‘homosexuality’ through the figure of the homosexual huangren (wanderer)¹ as crucially defined by mobility. However, this privileging of movement over place does not entail eschewing consideration of textual representations of the specific,...

  7. Section 2: ‘Family’ Revalued

    • 4 Hybrid Citations: Chen Xueʹs Queer Tactics
      (pp. 119-140)

      In several respects, questions about sexuality appear ineluctably to entail questions about ‘family’. If the sexual subject is considered as primarily a psychic one — as it frequently has been in Euro-American writings on sexuality since Freud — then psychoanalytic theory installs the Oedipal family as the locus of the formation of the individuated sexual subject. If the sexual subject is considered as primarily a ‘cultural’ one — as it usually has been in discussions of ‘Chinese sexualities’ — then the commonplace reading of ‘Chinese culture’ as centrally defined by ‘Chinese family’ often means that to speak of ‘China’, and...

    • 5 Globally Chinese at The Wedding Banquet
      (pp. 141-162)

      Chapter 4 raised some questions about how the signs ‘sexuality’ and ‘family’ are produced through the transcultural mobilities of the knowledge-systems that inform them. This chapter continues that discussion by reading a text — Ang Lee’s 1993 film The Wedding Banquet — that thematizes the same questions in different ways. These differences arise partly from the differences of the text itself from Chen Xue’s story. In contrast to ‘Searching’, obviously enough, Wedding Banquet is a filmic rather than a literary text. It is widely distributed through global networks rather than consumed within a limited and local context. It is available...

    • 6 Perverse Utopia: Reading The River
      (pp. 163-184)

      Through a discussion of Tsai Ming-liang’s 1996 film The River, this chapter pushes toward its limit the question of how to think tongxinglian in the same breath as jia. In this chapter, the question of reconciling two systems that are often considered to be in fundamental conflict — the ideology of the patrilineal family, and the organizations of sexual behaviour and identity that are designated by tongxinglian — crystallizes most clearly. The question has been a central one for Section 2 as a whole. I argued in Chapter 5 that The Wedding Banquet stages this question only to resolve it...

  8. Section 3: Representing the Subject of Tongxinglian

    • 7 The Closet, the Mask and ʹThe Membranesʹ
      (pp. 187-214)

      The title of this section, ‘Representing the Subject of Tongxinglian’, encodes a number of double significances. First, the ‘subject’ of the title is a double one, referring both to the epistemological topic or notion of tongxinglian and to the individual subject conditioned by that topic. Echoing this doubled subject, the ‘representation’ of the title is multiple. First, representation refers to the representation of the topic of tongxinglian in the texts of mainstream literature, television news media, and other forms of public culture. In this sense, the representation of tongxinglian is also its production by dominant cultural institutions. Second, representation means...

    • 8 The Crocodile Unmasked: Toward a Theory of Xianshen
      (pp. 215-236)

      In Chapter 7, I traced some of the contours of the tense and overdetermined relationship borne by the subjects of tongxinglian and ‘tongzhi identity’ to the category of the visible, through a discussion of the tongzhi mask. Whereas that chapter moved around the central problematic of the opposition of yin and xian in representations of tongxinglian, this one is structured around the concepts of tongzhi xianshen (‘coming out’, literally ‘disclosing oneself’) and puguang (‘being outed’, literally ‘exposure to the light’). The discussion in this chapter develops a proposal intimated in Chapter 7: that tongxinglian in late twentieth-century Taiwan is produced...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 237-252)

    As I hope is clear from the preceding chapters, queer representation in the variety of sites discussed in this book is so multiple, shifting, and ambiguous — qualities that apply to representations within a given text as much as across different texts — that any attempt to categorize the sites analysed into neatly bounded groups based on how they represent queerness risks erasing the very hermeneutic discontinuity and contradiction that makes them so interesting. The provisional taxonomy I propose in what follows, then, attempts to name not so much a set of categories into which all the examples discussed in...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 253-290)
  11. Chinese Character List
    (pp. 291-316)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 317-350)
  13. Index
    (pp. 351-360)