Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

The Erotics of Queer Diaspora in Chiang Hsun's Yu AI Shu: Xie Gei Ly's M (Epistles of Eros: Letters to Ly's M)

Academic journal article Cross / Cultures

The Erotics of Queer Diaspora in Chiang Hsun's Yu AI Shu: Xie Gei Ly's M (Epistles of Eros: Letters to Ly's M)

Article excerpt

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Chiang Hsun's Productive Queer Love

Contemporary understandings of genders and sexualities in Asian countries are variegated, hybridized, and ever-evolving cultural productions engendered in cultural encounters across numerous borders. Consequently, as Megan Sinnott points out, one of the most significant themes in the fast-developing field of queer Asian studies is its exploration of "sexuality and gender as a form of identity (or 'subjectivity'), practice, and cultural discourse (or 'cultural logic') that has emerged in the context of the transnational movement of concepts, bodies, and imagery."1 This is especially notable in Asian-based discussions of the 'queer diaspora'. Not only do Asian queer people transmigrate and set off processes of transculturation, but the concept of the 'queer diaspora' also travels and undergoes transformation in the multiple global flows. It is in such a context that this essay will investigate the erotics of the queer diaspora as constructed by the Taiwan writer Chiang Hsun in Yu ai shu: Xie gei Ly's M (Epistles of Eros: Letters to Ly's M, 2010).2

Bringing tropes and situations of queer diaspora into play, Chiang's Yu ai shu is actually a piece of travel writing in the form of epistles. Cast in the framework of love letters written to the writer's separated beloved from abroad, Chiang's book strives to envision a queer erotics out of his 'diasporic' love to heal the trauma of separation. Employing tropes of 'diaspora' to describe both his same-sex love and his journey in foreign countries, Chiang not only queers the heteropatriarchal roots of diaspora but also diasporizes his queer love in a productive way.3 Meanwhile, in utilizing experiences of travelling to imagine ideal queer love, Chiang transforms 'diaspora' from a traumatic experience of separation and loss into a transnational and crosscultural exploration of new possibilities of life and love. As separation paradoxically gives birth to Chiang's imaginings of ideal unions between the lovers, 'diaspora' helps to bring forth his vision of eternal love in endless reincarnations across national borders. This article will attempt to map out the tensions and paradoxes in Chiang's erotics of queer diaspora, which is also an ethics of love. To achieve a full appraisal of Chiang's book, my article will read it against other Taiwan local works about queer wandering and diaspora, pointing out both the values and the limitations of Chiang's vision. Accordingly, I will start with a survey of Taiwan scholars' discussions of queer diaspora before moving on to explicate Epistles of Eros.

Taiwanese Queer Discourses

Owing to global circulation of ideas, the concepts 'queer' and 'diaspora' are themselves both international and multi-directionally diasporic, dispersing diversified reconfigurations and hybridized variations in their multiple processes of dissemination and cross-fertilization with the local cultures of different countries.4 How 'queer' splits its identity into 'tongzhi' and 'ku'er' in Taiwan has been an interesting topic of investigation in several books and essays written in English.5 And when 'queer' encounters 'diaspora' in Taiwan, a number of transformations also come to pass. In 1995, Chi Ta-wei, the main spokesperson of Taiwan ku'er discourse, publishes what is perhaps Taiwan's earliest essay to introduce and indigenize the concept of the 'queer diaspora' in the context of local queer politics.6 Chi's formulation draws mainly on the British AIDS activist Simon Watney's "AIDS and the Politics of Queer Diaspora." Chi maintains that he deliberately transliterates 'diaspora' into 'dai e si pola' (with hunger, thinking about ways to be saucy and spicy) in order to call for all forms of defiant activism to confront heterosexism.7 By the phrase 'dai e' (with hunger) Chi means to convey the situation that queer people in Taiwan are suffering under the pressure of internal as well as external exile. …

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