Researching queer performativities/subjectivities/timespaces: sociolinguistic perspectives: Part B

Author: Branca Falabella Fabricio (Federal University Of Rio De Janeiro)Christian Go (National University Of Singapore)Benedict Rowlett (Hong Kong Baptist University)Brian King (City University Of Hong Kong)
Speaker: Branca Falabella Fabricio, Christian Go, Benedict Rowlett, Brian King
Topic: Language, gender, sexuality
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 Colloquium Session

Panel Abstract

Research on language and sexuality has been a theme in linguistics for more than two decades. Recent theoretical developments, beyond sexual ”identities”‟, however mark a shift a way from essentializing views, towards an emphasis on the local production of queer performativities/subjectivities and timespaces. Yet as is well known, and the framing of this conference amply illustrates, the production of local performativities/subjectivities/timespaces is influenced maybe shaped by mobility and global flows and a pervasive, but not to be ignored, polycentricity which engenders dynamic and relational centres/peripheries (cf Moita-Lopes & Baynham 2018). It is however important to turn the critical gaze on versions of what Giametta (2017) and others term “homo-nationalism” narratives whereby, through global flows from centre to periphery, the enlightened as it were redemptory North disseminates values of tolerance and openness on questions of sexuality to closed “traditional” societies in the global South and East. We think it makes more sense to ask how these global flows are locally appropriated, made over, ironized, in the production of locally inflected queer performativities/subjectivities/ and timespaces. Nor is our emphasis simply on the here-and-now of contemporary mobilities and flows. It has often been important in the political emergence of queer subjectivities to rediscover an erased history or confront the violence of historical moments that have shaped perceptions of sexuality in late modernity. One instance of the latter is the repeated evidence of same sex desire being stigmatized and criminalized in colonized countries during the colonial period, (for example the Spanish and Portuguese in South America, the British in India, Singapore, West Africa and elsewhere). Such “historical” power imbalances and their ongoing consequences might be seen to be played out in a continuing way in current post colonial times by orientalizing phenomena such as sex tourism. An instance of the former is in the tendency for the conscious emergence of the queer in a given society to look for local queer traditions in history and literature to be invoked, providing as it were local genealogy and descent for the emergence and validation of locally inflected queer performativities/subjectivities and timespaces: for example traditions of male/male love in classical Chinese and Japanese literature. We argue that it is important to bear these dimensions in mind to develop a research agenda that can emphasize the local production of queer performativities/subjectivities and timespaces, their historical shaping without ignoring the mobilities and flows which characterize the time/space compression of the late modern world. Papers in this panel will explore aspects of these issues as exemplified in a range of settings: Singapore, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Philippines, Japan. Broadly informed by linguistic ethnography, multimodality and discourse analysis, data will include oral face-to-face interaction, performance, film and literary sources as well as on-line data of various sorts.

Resemiotization of Brazilian videos in the Philippines: rescaling and queering communicability fields

Branca Falabella Fabricio (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro)


The view that before there is a particular situated practice there is movement (Nail 2015) demands constant attention, since frenetic circulation is a crucial aspect of our intense globalized times. Although fluidity has long been conceived as constitutive of TimeSpace „stability‟ – as Bakhtinian chronotopes suggest (Bakhtin, 1981) – the present mobility of people, languages and texts have been enhanced to unimaginable degrees. It co-exists with the fresh memory of predictable colonial routes but we now live in times when all kinds of things “are turning up in unexpected places” (Pennycook 2012: 17). If in the past we lived in a world that was mostly south-north oriented, now we cannot anticipate what or who would turn up where. In this paper, we focus on such unexpectedness and on the kinds of communicability fields (Briggs 2007) two particular video-texts project when they follow a south-to-south trajectory, from Brazil into the Philippines (and vice-versa): the video-texts are of a Brazilian funk singer and the coronation of Miss Amazonas State 2015. The trajectory they follow erodes the borders of imagined territories (Anderson 1983), operating within the framework of the “contact zone” (Pratt 1987). In doing so it creates meaning-making possibilities across territories which are not historically linked. Our main concern in this paper is with how meanings perspectivizing heterosexuality in Brazil are queered in the Philippines and travel back to Brazil. The analysis scrutinizes indexing and scaling processes (Carr & Lampert, 2016) forged through somatic, clothing, hair-style and other semiotic cues. It also seeks to explore the relationship between emergent semiosis and ways of queering communicability fields. On the one hand, queerness in the Filipino videos seems to be aligned with northern-hemisphere-oriented discourses which parody the intense stylization of essentialist femininity (i.e. some kind of drag). On the other hand, it also draws on the intersection of local poverty and race. Therefore, the videos create new translocal queer communicability fields and become powerful by serving participants‟ local performative needs. We argue that when videos travel back to Brazil – as they have done – queer performativity invites different forms of interpellation and recruitment.

Queerly Spaced: A Linguistic Landscape of the Metro Manila Pride Marc

Christian Go (National University of Singapore)


As Milani (2016) points out, language and sexuality has not been studied from a linguistic landscape approach until recently. This study investigates different elements of linguistic landscape found in the 2017 Metro Manila pride march. Specific focus is placed on different linguistic landscape representational genres projected by the pride march participants, namely, (1) protest signs, t-shirts, and flags, and (2) various types of modalities (e.g. text and images) to convey dissent.

In addition to identifying representational genres and modalities used, the study also notes recurring themes and discourses that are embedded in the landscape. Based on the data, I discuss the manner in which these semiotically representative materials transform and (re)appropriate banal public space into a local of celebrating (and raising awareness of) sexual diversity. The pride march space creates a venue where issues relevant to the Philippine LGBT community are advocated. For example, a number of participants openly speak up for the local gay rights movement by problematizing the current lack of gay rights. In doing so, they align the issue with a globally recognized problem such as basic human rights issues through discursive practice that goes in hand-in-hand with the pride parade linguistic landscape.

One such discourse prominent in the march is “gay rights are human rights.” In utilizing this kind of discourse as a resource, participants are able to frame and interpret their fight for equality within a fundamental humanitarian context. In publicly displaying and endorsing betterment of sexual minorities, pride march participants negotiate their position via dominant discourses surrounding other civil problems. This, however, simultaneously highlight socially marginalized position that sexual minorities in the community face. All in all, the study contributes to the increasing scholarship surrounding linguistic landscapes, which have largely overlooked how sexuality is entrenched, regulated, and represented in public space.

Sexualities, economies, and emotions: Queer perspectives from Cambodia

Benedict Rowlett (Hong Kong Baptist University) | Brian King (City University of Hong Kong)


The queer spaces of Siem Reap, Cambodia, manifested as a constellation of bars, hotels, and drag shows, are a significant feature of the city‟s tourist industry. Adorned with the symbols of queer cultures from the Global North and marketed ostensibly towards the queer (male) tourist, these commercial spaces bring the economically mobile visitor into (sexualised) contact with the locals who serve and befriend them. However, these spaces also appear side by side with another significant feature of the touristic landscape of the city. This is the highly visible presence of NGOs who appeal to the emotions of the visitor for economic aid towards the development and empowerment of locals in this „context of poverty‟. With respect to these intersections, ethnographic engagement with people operating in these spaces has revealed a particular kind of relationship practice in which queer men from the Global North provide a form of economic „sponsorship‟ for local men. This is a practice discursively constructed across a spectrum, from simple acts of charitable support to intimacy and, in some cases, sexual transaction. On the surface, this kind of practice may appear to sustain and reproduce globally pervasive imaginings of sex work, exploitation, and victimisation which have often come to define sexualised interstices of the Global North and South. However, the queer perspectives adopted for this research have been tasked with problematizing these kinds of normative assumption. To this end, we will explore the discursive complexities surrounding queer sexualities in this context by focusing on their intersections with economies and emotions. The linguistic data for the analysis consists of media texts pertaining to queer tourism in Siem Reap and emotion work in the small stories from interviews conducted with local men. Our ethnographically informed discourse analysis will therefore address how the economies of consumption and development, compounded by „the affective dimensions of agency‟ (Silva & Borba, ftc) relevant to this context, inform the construction of local sexualities in these cases. In this way, our analysis will consider how these sexualities may find saliency as a form of transformative queer action, where local men are able to challenge normative assumptions surrounding their practices. This is towards discursively shaping the local conditions of possibility that constitute this sexualised North/South interstice to their advantage, thus enacting knowledges from the Global South and problematizing classist assumptions about who can access agency, awareness and competence.