Having just come back in 2018 from an extensive research trip in both the Philippines and Japan. I am excited to start a new year here at Macquarie University, where a few of my more recent projects are beginning to crystalise.
Firstly, within the next few months, I seek to finalise the draft of the monograph based off my PhD thesis which is tentatively entitled Regimes of Desire: Young men, heteronormativity, and the Japanese gay media landscape. This monograph brings together a lot of the research I have conducted over the years into how consuming Japanese gay media inculcates desires for heteronormative masculinity among young gay men in Japan, with a particular focus on how the neoliberalism inherent to the gay media landscape reduces the agency of individual consumers to explore their identities outside narrowly defined “Types” circulating throughout the Japanese gay sub-culture. However, in response to recent fieldwork conducted in 2016 and 2017, I will now conclude the book with a discussion of how the contemporary LGBT boom in Japan is beginning to dislodge the regimes of desire I encountered between 2012 and 2015, and how new discourses of hope are emerging among young gay men in Japan.
Related to this is a rather exciting opportunity I have been given to guest edit a special issue of the journal Porn Studies along with my brilliant colleagues Katrien Jacobs and Alexandra Hambleton. This is an exciting new development for us, so please watch this space for more information.
I will also be working to finish publication of three articles tangential to this larger project; one article examines the role of sound in structuring Ni-chome as a queer space, one examines how use of dating apps is revitalizing Ni-chome, and a final article looks at how the regimes of desire examined in my monograph impact Japanese gay men’s consumption of Korean male idols.
I am currently embarking on a new project, which seeks to extend the work I was doing on the globalisation of BL in what I hope will be exciting new directions. Lately, I have become increasingly interested in how the transnational circulation of Japanese popular culture (particularly that with queer themes) is leading to a variety of “aspirational discourses” to develop among LGBT consumers throughout the Asia-Pacific region. My research in the Philippines, where I began examining how Filipino fans “creatively misread” BL as a Thai phenomenon (another article I plan to write later this year after fine tuning my thoughts at a number of conferences), has led me to think through how Japan represents a “fantasy” that produces new queer epistemologies that are incredibly meaningful to young gay consumers. Yet, this “yearning for Japan” is not without its problems, as I am discovering a tendency among consumers to idealize certain understandings of Japan (such as those promoted by the current LDP government under the aegis of the Cool Japan brand) that rely on problematic stereotypes. Indeed, the yearning for Japan I am encountering is leading to the development of both a neo-Nihonjinron tied to techno-Orientalist fantasies of Japan as well as what I am tentatively wishing to call a “homo-nihonjinron” discourse – a form of nihonjinron that is decidedly homonationalist in its expression both within Japan and without.
But this isn’t the whole story. My experiences in the Philippines has revealed the importance of thinking through the notion of the “Asia-Pacific” in a much more nuanced manner. Indeed, I am increasingly finding that I will need to account for the roles that China, South Korea, and the neo-imperial US play in the reception of queer Japanese popular culture throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Much like Dredge Kang has argued within a Thai context, it seems that an explicitly “Korpanese” imaginary is emerging within the queer communities with which I have engaged in Japan (migrants and tourists rather than Japanese), the Philippines, and recently Australia. That is to say, Japanese queer popular culture is being married to the consumption of K-pop and K-dramas to create new narratives of “Queer Asian” desire.
Furthermore, my experiences in Manila revealed that China (and to a lesser extent, Taiwan) is emerging as an important challenger to this Korpanese queer pop culture, as is “Thai BL.” “Creative misreading,” or the decontextualised worlding that fans engage in to create new understandings of queer popular culture that de-territorialise and re-territorialise queer epistemologies originally developed in Japan, is central to this process. It is my aim to continue working with informants in Japan, the Philippines, and Australia to explore these processes and to develop theory to account for what I am observing.