Colloquium Series on Korean Cultural Studies
“Refusing Exile from Kinship? Married Homosexual Men (“Bats”) and the Queering of the South Korean Family”
John Song Pae Cho, Assistant Professor, Sarah Lawrence College
Moderated by Theodore Hughes, Korea Foundation Associate Professor of Korean Studies in the Humanities, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
Thursday, February 16, 2017, 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM
International Affairs Building, Room 918
No registration required.
Co-sponsored by the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality, and the Korea Foundation
In recent years, postcolonial nations in East Asia and South-east Asia have witnessed the growth of vigorous LGBT movements that both mimic and challenge Euro-American models of identity, sexuality, and citizenship. Defying the thesis of queer globalization as Westernization, the rise of a regional sexual imaginary dubbed “Queer Asia” has taken place in tandem with the rise of certain Asian states as economic and technological powers.
Building on the emerging scholarship on Queer Asia, this paper seeks to interrogate one key dimension of this phenomenon: family and queerness. Critics have noted that East Asian queers, due to concerns about parents and filial obligations, oftentimes reject an Anglo-American model of homosexuality that constructs gay identity as coming out of the blood family and joining alternative communities. Instead, they create marginal urban gay spaces that are shielded from the gaze of the family even as they are linked to global cultural flows.
Yet, if many East Asian queers refuse to exit the family to be gay, then how do the globalizing discourses of queerness remake not just their identities but also the families they inhabit as a site of ongoing contradiction and cultural hybridity? Working from the geo-political location of South Korea and the interdisciplinary perspectives of anthropology and queer studies, this paper thus asks, What happens to the South Korean family when queers refuse to become sexual exiles?