Critical Connections: Forum on Cultural Studies in Asia and Beyond
16 March 2012, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
CONFERENCE KEYNOTE SCHOLAR AND GUEST SPEAKER
Dr. Anthony SIU (University of Hong Kong) email: <email@example.com>
"Kinship Inoperative: Of Pets and Queens"
Unlike the West, where kinship offers a means to politicize parenting in same-sex relations, the East has yet to imagine Oedipal relations as such. While comparison as such might risk reductive essentialism, my paper does not aim at dichotomizing the two but examines the historical differences and the theoretical underpinnings behind this development in the East. Using postcolonial Hong Kong as a case in point, it tries to show how an uncanny formation of kinship with animals challenges the ways in which we think about modern subjectivity and politics of the sovereign.
In an attempt to rethink queer history vis-à-vis Giorgio Agamben’s The Open: Man and Animal, my presentation wants to explore several questions. How does a kinship based on the relations with animals come into existence? In what ways does it reshape the psychic geography of the queer community when it has scanty impact on the juridical structure and legal treatment of queers as a whole? How does it affect the ways we think about animal justice when queers contribute to an excessive pet industry that exceeds animal survival? Or, how do we conceive pet yoga, glamour parlors, pet insurance, and hospice care in queer terms? In what ways does this excessiveness complicates the dialectics of public and private spaces that are so endearing to the sovereign power in Hong Kong.
More generally, I think that Agamben’s paradoxical notion of bare life, which rewrites Foucault’s biopolitics by rendering the modern citizen as a bearer of subjection to individual liberties and sovereign power, will allow me address the above questions and to lay bare three points which I see as characterizing the political situation of sexed subjects in today’s Hong Kong. First, sexual politics is simply impossible with its antiquated obsession with the formalized values of identity politics and juridical reforms, as it ignores many sub-cultural phenomena that are representative of the self-fashioning marking queer lifestyle. Second, an understanding of this alternative kinship between animals and queers is crucial in unveiling the fantasy of a redemptive effort in face of decolonization. Third, this new formation of kinship in fact constitutes a new subject through which the governing body can further exercise its sovereign power.
In short, my paper is an invitation to rethink queer politics in terms beyond that of human identity while underlining the complex historicity that gives rise to its development. In bringing this complexity to light, it hopes that the public become aware of the sub-cultures that have turned into targets of political violence.
Baptized by continental discourses, film culture, and contemporary literatures, Anthony Siu studied at University of Hong Kong and State University of New York, Buffalo. Worked closely with The Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Culture, he is familiar with the works of Copjec, Deleuze, Freud, Lacan, Laclau, and Zizek. In addition to American literature, he is fascinated by how continental discourses can be used to reconceptualize cultural and literary studies in an Asian context. His more recent research includes affectivity, post-secular theology, and animal capital, especially their relevance to queer and gender studies. Currently, he is Assistant Professor of English at Hang Seng School of Commerce and Honorary Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at University of Hong Kong.