Part of the ‘Queer’ Asia 2020: Rethinking Radical Now Blog Series
A starting point by way of introduction to the series.
We write as two of the organisers of the ‘Queer’ Asia platform’s events, Danny and Jenny
‘Queer’ Asia was supposed to hold an annual conference this year, this month, in June 2020, which we haven’t held since 2018. Last year we held an immersive summer programme, with around 28 participants meeting for four days. We knew it was important to create more of a community for the sharing of ideas, the building of relationships of trust with one another, and to refresh anew our activities and move past a sense of dissatisfaction we had felt in previous years as our activities grew ever bigger and everyone became more anonymous within them. We are so grateful to those 2019 participants for their enthusiasm, honesty, friendship, and trust, with people coming from all over the world and bringing in varied experiences, ideas, and passion. But in planning our activities this year, acknowledging the importance of creating an ‘academic’ space for scholars and researchers—of whatever academic persuasion—we decided to organise our fourth conference.
Our call went out. We asked:
– ‘how and is ‘queer’/’queerness’ still radical?
– What spaces and practices inform the radical potential of queer?
– Is the term in translation and contestation with local forms relevant to radical practice in non-western contexts?
– Does queer presuppose forms of knowledge that are exclusionary (class, race)?
– How are activist movements still rooted in radical practices?
– What happens when queerness is co-opted into nationalist forms?
– What postcolonial structures clash with queerness?’
We see queer as relating to radical potentiality, beyond its co-option into existing frameworks of identity politics and its use as a buzzword for awareness. It can be used to critique a range of oppressive norms, practices, and frameworks that intersect with—or move beyond—sexuality and gender. We believe it can be used to rethink questions that address precarity, marginalisation, ethics and politics, in the face of an ongoing climate, health, and racism crisis, perpetual wars, revolutions, borders, and migrations.
We hoped to include short presentations, poetry, visual/film, art, and dance. Our ‘academic’ activities have always sought to draw on research from multiple sites. We believe without reservation that some of the most instructive and engaged research is created beyond the traditional institutional boundaries of the academy; that it is the dialogue between different forms of research that produces innovative approaches and challenges us to move further in our own practices.
When we cancelled our activities in March, we hoped there might be an opportunity to bring participants and audiences together at some point ‘later’ in the year, both for the conference and film festival, but that prospect lies too far ahead now, next year, if that. Instead, ongoing crises demand our attention and action. Covid, its exposure—once again—of vast structural inequalities across society and globally, its economic ramifications for vast populations and the issue of precarity, its unequal impact on BAME bodies, the racist impact on ‘Asian’ bodies, the closing of borders, the drawing of boundaries between self and other, us and them, nation and the world. We’ve seen the overwhelming culmination in recent months of historical and contemporary forces of racism, witnessing gross injustice and destruction and death meted out on black bodies, all of our complicity within these systems of privilege, including as POC. We’ve experienced the resurgence of debates around racism, whiteness, slavery, colonialism, imperialism, prison abolition, unequal access to health resources, the rolling back of trans rights, and in addition, further crises that demanded our attention before the last six months: the crucial need to rethink borders that kill, hostile policies and their impact on bodies deemed outside the nation, the urgency of climate change, the vast structural inequalities of a world built on empire (in action and in thought) in terms of global supply chains, capital, education, health, and race.
How do we at ‘Queer’ Asia plan to approach these urgent and necessary questions? At this juncture, we are keen to build up communities of support for one another, to offer a space for reflection, and learning, solidarity, and growth. Through our work, we proffer a collective and network as a potential source that works towards enriching struggles, collaborative strategies, and political solidarity. The narrative of ‘Queer’ Asia is one that is strongly underwritten by the need to create and nurture spaces of collaboration and support where few exist. These two sentences come from our edited volume and they are no more relevant today then two years ago when they were drafted.
We are committed to curating a platform to foreground voices that focus on many of these issues, to create collective spaces of learning that are inclusive. While the research of many of our participants attend specifically to issues around gender and sexuality, many of the ideas named above are raised in aspects of their work. We aim to make a space for our voices in our activities and in these pieces, to become reacquainted with others’ and our own needs as they become apparent in these current times. We end with a call for honesty in our work, for generosity. To acknowledge our own shortcomings, with a pledge to do better for and by one another in our activities. While we cannot meet in person, we share virtually with you some of this year’s activities, from an ongoing selection of film screenings in support of various community groups (Covid-19 Community Support Screenings) to our Blog Series based around our original Call for Submissions and on the theme, ‘Rethinking Radical Now’. These pieces are made up of ‘presentations’ that would have been made at the conference. Please enjoy the series.
Thanks to our 2020 contributors: (being updated)
* Jessie Yoon * Elmira Zadissa and Ramona Zadissa * Justin Francis Bionat * Jinhao Xie * Sabiha Allouche * Victor Fan * Ibtisam Ahmed * Themal Ellawala