“Queer Hopes Frustrated by the Pandemic? Theorizing Queer Futurity from Tokyo’s Gay Nightlife District” @ AAS2022, March 25

nichome covid
Two gay men attend a bar in Ni-chome during COVID in late 2020. Photo by Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters.

I’m very excited to announce that I will be presenting some reflections emerging from my recent book Regimes of Desire at the 2022 Annual Conference of the Association for Asian Studies in Hawaii, March 22-27!

On Friday March 25 at 11:30am-1:00pm (Hawaii Standard Time), I will be joining colleagues on the virtual panel “Reflections on COVID–19, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and their Legacies for Old, Poor, Disabled, Immigrant, and Sexual Minority Communities in Japan.” The panel was organized by superstar scholar Mark Bookman of Tokyo College. The panel abstract is below:

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and ongoing COVID–19 crisis have provided spaces for advocacy for old, poor, disabled, immigrant, and sexual minority communities in Japan. By passing laws, producing media, and redesigning cityscapes, advocates and members of the general public have contributed to projects to build a more inclusive society. Despite their contributions (or perhaps because of them), such projects have frequently failed to combat discrimination, improve accessibility, and correct for longstanding economic inequalities. In this panel, we consider some of the factors that constrained efforts to use the 2020 Games and COVID–19 crisis to promote diversity in Japan while utilizing our case studies to suggest paths for a more inclusive future. By combining disciplinary approaches from History, Anthropology, Political Science, and Urban Studies, we demonstrate how advocates and regular citizens alike empowered some marginalized persons at the expense of others and show how their exclusions may influence broader communities inside and outside Japan. Ultimately, our empirical analyses act as a gateway to explore prescriptive policy interventions and avenues for community action.

My own presentation is entitled “Queer Hopes Frustrated by the Pandemic? Theorizing Queer Futurity from Tokyo’s Gay Nightlife District.” If you’re attending AAS 2022, do please come along and hear my thoughts on the impacts of COVID-19 on Tokyo’s gay nightlife district of Shinjuku Ni-chome. Our panel is fully virtual. Here is the abstract:

From 2015 until 2017, Japanese media underwent a so-called LGBT Boom as debates concerning queer rights emerged as a prominent topic. Simultaneously, informants I interviewed in Tokyo’s gay nightlife district of Shinjuku Ni-chōme consistently positioned the upcoming Tokyo Olympics as a moment when Japan’s somewhat parochial queer culture would undergo significant transformations. My interlocutors voiced hopes that a renewed focus on queer rights in the district would shift systems of xenophobic and gendered discrimination central to Japan’s gay male culture. Hope represented a resource that young gay men traveling to this important queer space would deploy to combat discrimination they had faced in both mainstream society and within Shinjuku Ni-chōme itself. As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world and anti-Olympics sentiment developed in Japan during 2020 and 2021, there is a need to complicate arguments about the hopes expressed by young gay men during the LGBT Boom to re-theorize queer futurity in the post-COVID Japanese context. In this presentation, I marry a critical discursive analysis of social and traditional media debates concerning Shinjuku Ni-chōme during the pandemic and Tokyo Olympics to a queer affective reading of my interlocutors’ narratives of hope from the earlier LGBT Boom to explore slippages in articulations of the future. Rather than adopting an overly pessimistic reading, however, my analysis of hope before and during the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 Olympics reveals how concerns in the present among young gay men are mobilized to produce queer knowledge that is fundamentally emancipatory in its future orientation.