Archive 2014/15

Seminar Series 2014/15

Queering Sexualities in Asia

Divergent Queer Modernities: Rethinking Religion, Capitalism and (Post)Coloniality

A seminar by Professor Peter A. Jackson (Australian National University)

Monday 1 December 2014, Room 300 Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths, 4-6pm

JacksonThis presentation draws on several lines of research in Thai queer history to argue that twenty-first century East and Southeast Asian queer cultures are diverging from LGBTQ cultures in the (post)Christian West and other world regions, such as the Muslim societies of the Middle East and Africa.  In particular, it addresses diverging fundamentalist and supernatural trends in Asian religions; capitalism as a domain of queer autonomy in Asia; and the historical roles of “non-colonised” Thailand and Japan in the emergence of modern queer cultures in Southeast and East Asia.  The aim is to critique twentieth-century theorisations of religion and modernity, capitalism, and postcoloniality, as a starting point for developing analytical models better capable of describing and accounting for the diversity of queer cultures that inhabit the early twenty-first century world, which we might refer to as ‘divergent queer modernities’.

Peter A. Jackson is Professor in Thai history and cultural studies at the Australian National University. He has written extensively on modern Thai cultural history, with special interests in religion, sexuality and critical approaches to Asian histories and cultures. Peter’s recent books include: “The Ambiguous Allure of the West: Traces of the Colonial in Thailand” (Hong Kong University Press 2010, with Rachel Harrison); “Queer Bangkok: Twenty-First-Century Markets, Media and Rights” (Hong Kong University Press 2011); and “Thai Sex Talk: The Language of Sex and Sexuality in Thailand” (Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai 2012, with Pimpawun Boonmongkon).  His book current book project is “First Queer Voices from Thailand: Uncle Go’s Advice Column for Gays, Lesbians and Kathoeys”, and he is beginning a new project studying the growing roles of transgenders and gay men in resurgent supernatural religious rituals across mainland Southeast Asia.

Free-Indirect-Discourse Reboot: Reality, Authenticity, and Credulity in Contemporary Mainland Chinese Queer Independent Cinema

Victor Fan

A seminar by Victor Fan (Kings, University of London)

Wednesday 25 February 2015, Room 144 Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmith


In the past twenty years or so, Mainland Chinese queer independent cinema has been discussed in terms of its “realism.” However, how does one define the various modes of realism in such a diverse body of works? And perhaps more importantly, why does realism matter?

This presentation looks back to the historical trajectory of the Chinese queer independent cinema since Zhang Yuan’s East Palace, West Palace (1996) examining how conditions of production, political agendas, and spectatorship have informed the relationships between the cinematographic image and physical reality on the one hand, and perceptual reality on the other. It argues that documentary fiction films such as Er Dong (Cui Zi’en, 2008), and the avant-garde Deformity Sci-fi (Xue Jianqiang, aka Kokoka, 2013) regard the cinema as a site where the asymptote between subjectivity and objectivity can be approached and redrawn, thus achieving what I would call a “free-indirect-discourse reboot.” The notion of the “free indirect discourse” was first proposed by Pier Paolo Pasolini in the 1960s. For him, cinema had the potential to engage the spectators in the absolute subjective by putting the absolute objective on display on screen. Such a phenomenon is symptomatic of a need to renegotiate those contesting values on subjectivity, reality, authenticity, and credulity under increasing neoliberal economic disparity and state power. The theoretical framework of this paper is drawn from a comparative reading between the current writings on queer Mainland Chinese independent cinema, and the writings of Pasolini, in order to explore and define this new form of realism.

Victor Fan is a Lecturer at the Department of Film Studies, King’s College London and Film Consultant of the Chinese Visual Festival (London). His book Cinema Approaching Reality: Locating Chinese Film Theory will be published in March 2015 by the University of Minnesota Press. He has published in World Picture Journal, Camera Obscura, Journal of Chinese Cinemas, Screen, and other journals. His film The Well was an official selection of the São Paolo International Film Festival.


Disturbing Thainess: The Monstrous Feminine Bites Bangkok Back


A seminar by Rachel Harrison (SOAS)

Tuesday 17th March, Room 141 Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths, 4pm – 6pm

Despite the stereotypical view of Thailand as a thriving hub of international sex tourism, local constructions of Thainess privilege the position of the “good” Thai woman – a model of sexual propriety, demure physicality and aesthetic perfection. Her “wicked” and grotesque inverse is to be located in folk traditions that abound with malevolent female spirits and monsters; in the verses of classical literary works; in popular television dramas and horror films; and in media attacks on the country’s first female Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinwatra, removed from power by a military coup on 22 May 2014.

Adopted by Thai feminists and by street protestors at times of recent political unrest, the monstrous feminine has become central to a carnivalesque strategy of response and resistance to elite discourses of control. This paper will examine instances of how such a strategy functions and the extent to which it opens up new expressions of female sexuality in the context of contemporary Thainess.

Rachel Harrison is Reader in Thai Cultural Studies at SOAS. She has published widely on issues of gendered difference, sexuality, modern literature and cinema in Thailand as well as the comparative literature of South East Asia. She most recently edited a volume of chapters by Thai authors on the question of Western theoretical approaches to Thai literary analysis, entitled Disturbing Conventions: Decentring Thai Literary Cultures (Rowman and Littlefield International, 2014). In 2010 she published, in collaboration with Peter A. Jackson, an edited collection on The Ambiguous Allure of the West: Traces of the Colonial in Thailand with Hong Kong University Press and SEAP, Cornell. She is also editor of South East Asia Research.


 Guest Seminars / Public Lectures

Beyond Eurocentrism: Trajectories Toward a Renewed Political and Social Theory

A seminar with Ina Kerner (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

Thursday 26th March, Room 141 Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths, SE14 6NW, 4pm – 6pm

In recent years, the idea that we live in a globalized world has successfully gained ground—even in Europe and the rest of the Euro-Atlantic world.

Across various academic disciplines, this had led to severe critiques of not only methodological nationalism, but also of methodological Eurocentrism. But what does it mean to leave Eurocentrism behind? What kind of theorizing can and should we engage in when

we attempt at provincializing, decentering or even decolonizing our thought? In her talk, Ina Kerner will present and discuss different critiques of Eurocentrism and assess theoretical alternatives each may provide.

Inverted MapIna Kerner is Assistant Professor for Diversity Politics at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in Germany and currently a Visiting Research Fellow at the Center for Postcolonial Studies at Goldsmiths.  Her research interests include contemporary political and social theory (particularly feminist and postcolonial theories) and questions of diversity and intersectionality. Recent publications include: “Countering the Legacies of Colonial Racism: Decolonial and Postcolonial Approaches”, in Broeck & Junker (eds): Postcoloniality – Decoloniality – Black Critique: Joints and Fissures, Frankfurt/New York 2014; “Differences of Inequality: Tracing the Socioeconomic, the Cultural and the Political in Latin American Postcolonial Theory”, Working Paper No. 60, Berlin 2013.


Eight chickens and there was this goat: Academic Knowledge and Not Knowing

A talk by Brenda Cooper (Emeritus Professor, University of Cape Town

Wed 13 May 2015, Room 256 Richard Hoggart Building, 4-6pm, Goldsmiths.

cooper-talkWe have to be knowledgeable, us academic writers, otherwise what is the point of us? It is a truism to state that we read and research with the purpose of adding to the store of knowledge in the world. Knowledge, however, is always partial. It would be academic hubris to assume otherwise. This is so in general. More specifically and politically, however, there is the academic research about people and places by researchers with backgrounds different from their subjects. The ignorance of fundamental aspects of the lives of these subjects is not always written into our findings. The challenge here is how to fashion our academic writing such that it expresses both our knowing and also our not knowing simultaneously. My question is how might our declared not knowing be written into the form and style of our writing?

Brenda Cooper was for many years the Director of the Centre for African Studies and a Professor in the English department at the University of Cape Town, where she is an Emeritus Professor. She has published widely on African fiction in English, postcolonial literary theory and African Studies. Most recently Brenda has completed a cross-genre book that is a mixture of life writing, diasporic African art and literary studies. It is entitled Floating in an Anti-bubble from South Africa to Salford: A mosaic of pictures and stories, Africa World Press, forthcoming. She has also co-edited a book with Rob Morrell, entitled Africa-Centred Knowledges: Crossing Fields and Worlds, James Currey, 2014. She is currently researching a book entitled But is it academic? Playing with form in scholarly writing.


On Global Ethics: Some Histories and Practices

A talk by Professor Leela Gandhi (Brown University)

Monday 15 June: Small Cinema, Richard Hoggart Building, 4-6pm, Goldsmiths

I will draw upon my books Affective Communities, and The Common Cause: Postcolonial Ethics and the Practice of Democracy, 1900-1955, to canvass forms of ethics or self-work that speak to the cultures of globalization by actively seeking a connection between self and the world. My focus will be on the radical, transnational and democratizing ethical experimentation that emerged against the backdrop of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century imperialism and totalitarianism.


Leela Gandhi is the John Hawkes Professor of Humanities and English at Brown University. She has taught at the University of Chicago, La Trobe University and the University of Delhi and held visiting professorships in Australia, Denmark, India, Italy and Iran. Her publications include Postcolonial Theory (1998), Measures of Home: Selected Poems (2000), and Affective Communities (2006). In her most recent book The Common Cause: Postcolonial Ethics and the Practice of Democracy, 1900-1955 (2014), Gandhi contests the view that democracy is a uniquely Western inheritance and recovers a transnational history of democracy in the first half of the twentieth century. Gandhi is co-editor, along with Deborah Nelson, of Around 1948: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Global Transformation, a special issue of Critical Inquiry. She is a founding co-editor of the journal Postcolonial Studies and board member of Postcolonial Text, and a Senior Fellow of the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s