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Wang, "Lesbianscape of Taiwan: Media history of Taiwan's lesbians," 2007

USC dissertation in Cinema-Telvision (Critical Studies).
August 21, 2009

Chun-Chi Wang, Ph.D

Abstract (Summary)

Lesbianscape: Media History of Taiwan's Lesbians is a historical and theoretical study of discourses and media representations of sexuality around female intimacy, desire, and contemporary lesbian/ nu tongzhi identity in the cultural context of post-war Taiwan. It argues that the subject of nu tongzhi /lesbian identity in contemporary Taiwan is a hybrid product resulting from constant negotiation and dialogue with Anglo-American ideologies of homosexuality, as well as contestations over the disputed national identities of contemporary Taiwan. Addressing the role of the media in introducing and advocating liberal sexual politics, this dissertation describes a process both of the reinscription and reappropriation of Western discourse and representations of sexuality.

The examination that this project undertakes includes, but is not limited to, the past two decades that have seen the rise of a tongzhi (gay and lesbian) subject in Taiwan. Engaging in multiple methodologies, including textual analysis, discourse analysis, and survey research, this study reveals queer moments in the socio-cultural context of postwar Taiwan that can be of value for nu tongzhi /lesbians to construct their identities and articulate their desires. Linking these queer moments proposes a possible Chinese epistemology of nu tongzhi /lesbians that reflects and challenges the global dominance of Western ideologies and theories of homosexuality. Furthermore, those queer moments that enable a new way of comprehending sexual identities outside a Western cultural context have to be understood as tactics embedded in everyday life practices in order to be perceived. While many critical studies on non-Western lesbians, gays, and queers focus the spotlight on the activist perspective, this project proposes another counter-argument against the hetero-hegemony of popular culture. Exploring the cultural representation of female homosexuality in Taiwan thus suggests a strategy that goes beyond a series of binaries, such as East vs. West, local vs. global, and high vs. low, in order to mobilize dominant powers and ideologies as mediation to re-theorize the experience of a transnational (or postcolonial) sexual subject.

Advisor: Kinder, Marsha
Committee members: Jaikumar, Priya,  Halberstam, Judith