‘Queer’ Asia, a network of Queer activists, academics and artists working on Asia are holding their second annual conference (16-18 June 2017) at SOAS University of London. The theme this year is: Desire, Decolonisation, and Decriminalisation.
With UK celebrating 50 years of decriminalization of homosexuality and SOAS celebrating its centenary this year, we wish to focus on the impact of colonialism on understanding of gender and sexuality in Asian countries.
The packed programme of events includes panel discussions, film, performance, and photography. Twitter feed coverage (#queerasia2017) hints at the complexity of the field, and the diverse debates it generates:
- Sexual difference became markers of degeneracy and savagery- also associated with the colonised
- Decriminalisation is only the beginning of a long road to access justice
- Who gets to define the terms of inclusion and visibility?
Siodhbhra @harvardian writing about China, reveals why, more generally, the ‘Queer’ Asia 2017 conference is timely:
LGBT people in China are forced to live an invisible identity.
[In mainland China] being open about your sexual identity is still very much a contested act.
Social visibility rates [in China] remain very low. Only 15% are ‘out’ to their families.
The sense of complex, nuanced debates – and political activism – embrace the arts as much as the social sciences. Art Attack! (Art/Music), the first session of the afternoon (16 June) brought together research interests of: Iaroslav Volovod (Assistant Curator, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia); Sahil Tandon (International Centre for Research on Women, India); and Dr Hans Tao-Ming Huang, Centre for the Study of Sexualities, National Central University, Taiwan).
Iaroslav Volovod spoke about the art of Mumtaz Karimjee’s (‘Black South Asian and Queer’) and her photographs ‘hijacking hetero-normative spaces’.
Sahil Tandon (‘Queering Indian Classical Music’) explored the masculine and feminine running through Hindustani music; its common themes of jilted or absent lovers; the unequal power balance of a male-dominated sphere; and whether its claims as devotional music necessarily meant it was always divorced from human desire?
Dr Hans Tao-Ming Huang discussed the career of Tian Qiyuan (and the Theatre of the Queer Left) whose plays challenged both party, state and the ‘art of cut-and-paste’ then prevalent in Taiwan. His Love Homosexsual (sic) in Chinese (1988) was the first ‘gay’ play in Taiwan. On his AIDS Memorial Quilt, it is telling that Tian’s name is the only one openly recorded, while others are listed under an alias.
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This blog forms part of a series on LGBTQI+ issues in Asia, authored by or for Queer Asia, a network of queer identifying scholars, academics, activists, artists and performers working on issues affecting people self-identifying as LGBTQ+ or belonging to other non-normative sexualities and gender identities in Asia, Asian diasporas and beyond. For regular updates, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.