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Pushing Our Limits? Implicating Queer Spectacle in East Asian Literature and Media

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Organizer: Rebecca Ehrenwirth

Co-Organizer: Fareed Ben-Youssef

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This seminar invites papers on queer spectacle from across East Asian literature and media which forces their consumers to confront their own allegiance with insidiously damaging norms. We are interested in works and even presentation styles that push boundaries (both in terms of content and form) to contemplate illicit pleasures and our own perpetrating desires. Additionally, we seek studies of literature/media from both the scholar and artist perspective that mobilizes the inherently fluidity of queerness to formally cultivate an intimacy and closeness with both those pushed toward the margins and those aligned with the hegemony. 

This seminar about extremes conceives of queerness in broad terms as a radical political project–one that fosters estranging yet empowering transnational solidarities between those othered on the basis of identity by social/legal/technical means. To sense the illuminating and implicating force of queer art and curation, we mobilize theories from across disciplines. This includes historian Robert Chi’s idea of exhibitionism, which is a spectacular means to display censored objects, to create “new ways of viewing, interpreting and interacting with art,” as well as theories of voyeurism from feminist film theory, including Rey Chow's implicating “to-be-looked-at-ness” in which the viewer is confronted by a female self-consciously exhibiting her body for the male gaze. Finally, our framework draws on trauma studies, specifically Michael Rothberg’s conception of the “implicated subject” and what he describes as “privileged consumers… participants in and beneficiaries of a system that generates dispersed and unequal experiences of trauma and well-being simultaneously.” We mean here only to delineate our conceptions of queerness and invite panelists to offer their own definitions.

Notably, this seminar aims not only to test the limits of some imagined reader or viewer. No, in its central investment in confrontational art and art practices, forcing a reckoning with their consumers’ own position as potential queer subjects, queer allies, and as beneficiaries of broader systems of inequality, the seminar ultimately asks its participants to test their own limits by questioning the grounding conceptions of queerness that they employ in their scholarship. Are the conceptions they deploy, in keeping with Howard Chiang’s idea of an expansive “queer Sinophonicity,” productively synthesizing the local with the transnational? Or, are they essentializing, motivated by a simplistic vision of a “Chinese”/ “Japanese”/ “South Korean”/ etc. queerness or defined by a transplanting of a (neo-)imperial Western homonormativity onto East Asian subjects and art?

If applicants have questions about any aspect of potential proposals, please reach out to the seminar organizers. Please note that we seek papers from across disciplines and genres as well as pieces of creative work and visual media.

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