Consuming China in Queer Japan: Homonationalism and racialized desire in Japan’s gay sub-culture

I will be giving a talk entitled “Consuming China in Queer Japan” based on some of my new research at Macquarie University on Friday April 7th at 2:00-3:30pm in Building W6A, Room 107. Forming part of the Department of International Studies Research Seminars, the lecture is public but please contact me via email if you wish to attend as we do have limited seating.

Special issue of Badi magazine focusing on Chinese gay culture

Here is the abstract:

The number of individuals migrating to Japan who identify as LGBT has greatly increased in recent years (Paquin 2014). A significant proportion of these migrants are Chinese men who perceive Japan as being more tolerant towards homosexuality than China (Baudinette 2016). In this presentation, I draw upon an ethnographic study of Tokyo’s “gay town” of Shinjuku Ni-chōme and a critical reading of the gay magazine Bádi to unpack how “Chineseness” is situated within the discursive hierarchy of “racialized desire” which structures Japan’s gay sub-culture. I argue that although Bádi deploys a queer rights discourse to position Japanese and Chinese gay men as “equal” through notions of shared queer experience, China is broadly depicted as somehow “behind” Japan and the West in terms of queer development. This positioning, I suggest, is indicative of a somewhat “homonationalist” (Puar 2007) assumption of China’s inherent backwardness, reinforced through nihonjinron (theories of Japanese exceptionalism) discourses firmly embedded in the colonial legacy underlying Japan’s engagement with its East Asian neighbours. Through my ethnography of Ni-chōme, I explore how these neo-colonial assumptions become manifest in the everyday lived experiences of Chinese gay sojourners who have travelled to Japan in search of intimate relationships. I argue that the system of stratifying bars via racialized “Typing” represents a form of “biopolitical” control which effectively excludes Chinese men from full participation in the district’s sub-culture. Furthermore, through interviews with Japanese men in the neighbourhood, I demonstrate that they explicitly utilise neo-colonial discourses to justify their positioning of Chinese gay men as threats to the security of Japan’s gay sub-culture. Through this discussion, I seek to develop a new theory of homonationalist nihonjinron (or “homo-nihonjinron”) which accounts for the ways racialized desire is constructed in Japan’s gay sub-culture.

Aspects of this presentation will be drawing upon analysis of an interview with the Chinese gogo dancer and event manager Tian Tian, which I have translated here.

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