Looking forward to queer utopias

Tokyo Rainbow Pride, 2015



I will be giving a presentation entitled Looking forward to queer utopias: Ambivalent hopes from Japan’s new “LGBT boom” at Monash University’s Japanese Studies Centre. The event, entitled Looking Back, Looking Forward: Japanese Studies in Australia, celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of Japanese Studies at Monash University. Details for the event may be found here.

Here is the abstract for my presentation:

Similar to the “gay boom” of the early 1990s, recent years have seen an explosion of interest in LGBT issues throughout Japanese society. Fuelled by various local governments’ decisions to extend symbolic recognition to same-sex couples, LGBT issues have become a key area of debate within Japanese politics, with the ruling LDP seeking to promote Japan as an “LGBT friendly nation.” In this presentation, I draw upon critical readings of recent news articles discussing LGBT issues and interviews with young Japanese and foreign LGBT individuals to explore the potential futures of Japan’s sexual minorities. I demonstrate that much of the discussion concerning sexual minority rights in Japan is characterised by a sense of “ambivalent hope” (Allison 2013) and contend that widening awareness of LGBT issues amongst the general public renders both expat and Japanese queer individuals broadly optimistic for the future. The groups differ, however, over their understanding of the role LGBT identity politics play in this future. Whilst expats draw upon discourses of “progress” to typify the increasingly mainstream awareness of LGBT identity politics, my Japanese informants fear that “Westernisation” may lead to the marginalisation of local queer knowledge and culture. I suggest that Japan’s “queer utopia” is built upon largely “homonationalist” (Puar 2007) principles which limit the potential of the new “LGBT boom” to affect positive change for Japan’s marginalised sexual minorities. I follow Muñoz (2009) in arguing that the instrumental nature of the government’s engagement with LGBT rights may even stymie the development of this queer utopia.

A copy of the PPT slides for the presentation may be accessed here.

Please contact me if you wish to see a copy of the presentation script. Of course, I plan to publish this paper ASAP.

(PS: I am planning to use this blog more often and keep it updated, so stay tuned! Feel free to follow and promote my work!)

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