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Agenda 8:15 - 9:00AM


9:00 - 9:15AM

Opening Remarks     Shuncai Yan      President of SEAS

9:15 - 10:45AM

Panel 1: "(Re)framing Citizenship in South Korea"     - Chair      Alex Jong-Seok Lee      Department of Anthropology      University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

10:45 - 11:00AM


11:00 - 12:30PM

Panel 2: "(De)constructing Difference in Japan"     - Chair     Dr. Ikuko Asaka     Assistant Professor of History     University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

12:30 - 1:45PM



1:45 - 3:15PM

Panel 3: "(Un)doing Gender in China"     - Chair      Dr. Shao Dan      Associate Professor of East Asian Languages      and Cultures & Gender and Women's Studies      University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

3:15 - 3:30PM


3:30 - 5:20PM

Panel 4: "(Re)imagining Identities in East Asia"     - Chair      Dr. Robert Tierney      Professor and Head of East Asian Languages and      Cultures & Comparative and World Literature      University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

5:20 - 5:30PM



Keynote Address:     Dr. Johanna S. Ransmeier      Assistant Professor of History      University of Chicago


Dinner Reception


(Re)framing Citizenship in South Korea Shelby Strong University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign "Should We Pass on 'Passing Women'?: The Stakes of (Trans)gender Ontologies for South Korean Namjangyeoja Dramas" Anita Greenfield University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign "The Construction of the English Speaker in South Korean Education" Sandra Park University of Chicago "Between '(Grand)mother' and 'SĹ?nsaengnim': Gender, Social Documentaries and the Politics of Representation in South Korea" CHAIR:

Alex Jong-Seok Lee University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Anthropology



Shelby Strong is an M.A. student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests focus on hallyu fandoms, gender and sexuality, and contemporary South Korean media. Her current project investigates the relationship between the namjangyeoja drama trend and heteronormative familism as a reproducer of social inequality in South Korea. ANITA GREENFIELD

Anita Greenfield is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research in the field of sociolinguistics focuses on English language and education in South Korea, where she specifically looks at the role of native English speaking teachers as agents in global processes of English language spread. SANDRA PARK

Sandra Park is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at the University of Chicago. Her research at large examines Christianity, militarism and Cold War politics in post-1945 Korea. Park’s dissertation examines the military chaplaincy in the ROK armed forces as a crucial site for spiritual discipline, nation-building, and U.S.-Korean alliance-building during the Korean War and Vietnam War. This presentation for the symposium is distilled from a seminar paper, which conceptually explored a framework for addressing gender and state violence at the nexus of postcolonialism and Cold War. ALEX JONG-SEOK LEE

Alex Jong-Seok Lee is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology (with a Minor in Asian American Studies) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His dissertation, "Serving to Secure 'Global Korea': Gender, Mobility, and Flight Attendant Labor Migrants," examines stability and change in post-developmental, neoliberal South Korea. His research interests include mobility, migration, security, and East and West Asia.


(De)constructing difference In Japan Elizabeth Kataoka University of California Santa Barbara "Native Legislation: Japan, Ainu, and Indigenous Rights" Micah Mizukami University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa "'That's why your Japanese is so weird': Narrative Positioning and Ideologies of Okinawan Identity" Suzie Tyger University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign "Changing One's Gender: Transgender Themes in Torikaebaya and Its Treatment  through the Lens of Adaptation" CHAIR:

Dr. Ikuko Asaka University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Assistant Professor of History



Elizabeth Kataoka is currently a second-year doctoral student at the University of California Santa Barbara. She got her B.A. in history from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa after which she earned her M.A. in Asian Studies from the University of Michigan. Broadly speaking, she is interested in issues of gender, indigeneity, and empire in Japan. Her current research looks at the ways in which education systems established for Ainu children during the Meiji and Taisho periods functioned as tools of settler colonialism. MICAH MIZUKAMI

Micah Mizukami is currently pursing an M.A. in linguistics at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. After graduating with his B.A. in Japanese from Willamette University, Micah went on to teach English in the JET Program for three years in Tokunoshima, a northern Ryukyuan island in Kagoshima Prefecture. This experience greatly influenced his research interests, which include language conservation and revitalization in the Ryukyus, specifically in Okinawa and Tokunoshima. He is also interested in Okinawan identity and Okinawan diaspora studies. SUZIE TYGER

Suzie Tyger moved to Champaign, Illinois from Utah State University in 2017. She obtained her Bachelors degree in Asian Studies and is now working towards her Masters degree in East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Illinois. Her current research focuses on gender and sexuality in Japanese literature with a large interest in parodies and adaptations. She assists in teaching introduction classes on Japanese culture and finds great joy in teaching and mentoring others. In her free time, Suzie loves to spend time swimming with her daughter Julia and watching movies with her partner Tony. DR. IKUKO ASAKA

Ikuko Asaka studies nineteenth-century U.S. history from transnational and transimperial perspectives, with an emphasis on African American history and gender, sexuality, and women. Her first book explores the interconnections of emancipation and settler colonialism in both the United States and British Empire. Her current project looks at Afro-Asian connections and the popular consumption of non-normative Asian and African American male bodies in the U.S. North. It situates such phenomena in the heightening U.S. engagement in the Pacific and the deepening cultural impact of American slavery.


(Un)doing Gender in China Jingyuan Zhang University of Pennsylvania "Shifts in Marriage Customs in China: Socio-Historical Implications of Marriage-Seeking Advertisements in Tianjin and Shanghai between 1900-1945" Jingyi Gu University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign "'Fanchuan' on TV and 'Drag' in Dance Hall: Gender Impersonation and the Legibility of Chinese Queer Identity" Shucheng Yang University of Chicago "'Why are you not married yet?': Leftover Women in Contemporary China" CHAIR:

Dr. Shao Dan University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  Associate Professor of East Asian Languages   and Cultures & Gender and Women's Studies 7


Jingyuan Zhang is currently a second-year M.A. student from the history department of the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include the history of gender, women and sexuality, social history, history of labor, cultural history, legal history, immigrant History, and mass media. More specifically, her recent work examines the origins, motives, and implications of the evolution of marriage-seeking advertisements intersected with social mobility, gender norms, and modern social welfare system, and progressivist ideologies in early 20th century China. JINGYI GU

Jingyi Gu is a Ph.D. student in the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Jingyi received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Bachelor of Business Administration from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. She also graduated with distinction from Georgetown University’s Master program Communication, Culture, and Technology. Her current research interests lie at the intersection of popular culture, science and technology, and interactive media. With specific focus on the representation and embodiment of gender and sexuality, her research also takes on the critical and comparative cultural studies lenses in examining media technologies and sociotechnical systems. SHUCHENG YANG

Shucheng Yang is a graduate student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago. Shucheng's research interests include gender and sexuality, sociology of power, historical sociology, and social theory. DR. SHAO DAN

As a historian, Shao Dan uses her research skills to address problems involving peoples and places on the margins, intending to enrich our understanding of China as a historical concept and to bridge the gap between Asia-based and Europe-based studies on common problems about social boundaries and legal borders. She has endeavored to cross the historical marks that conventionally distinguish “modern” from “pre-modern” and to traverse the existing national borders that define China’s territory. She primarily studies the historical roots of contemporary problems, and particularly the problems concerning the making, shifting, and lifting of boundaries and borders in Chinese society.


(Re)imagining Identities in East Asia Patrick Carland University of Massachusetts, Amherst "Queerness and Alternative Families in Post-Bubble Japanese Fiction" Marcel Schneider University of Zurich "Concepts of Power: Law and Ritual at the Dawn of Imperial China as Reflected in Excavated Sources" Monte-Angel Richardson University of Michigan "Collective Memory and Mourning Practices in Nagasaki, Japan" Jacob Zhicheng Zhang School of the Art Institute of Chicago "Not Tongzhi: The Dialectic between Chinese Photographer Ren Hang and the 'Chinese Homosexual'" CHAIR:

Dr. Robert Tierney University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  Professor and Head of East Asian Languages and Cultures & Comparative and World Literature   9

PATRICK CARLAND Patrick Carland is an M.A. candidate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. MARCEL SCHNEIDER Marcel Schneider is currently enrolled in the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program Asia and Europe at the University of Zurich. His Ph.D. project deals with the representation of the First Emperor Qín Shǐhuángdì 秦始皇帝 and the constitution of power relations in Qín-dynasty China from a textual and art-historical perspective, taking - among other sources - various excavated Qín manuscripts such as the Lǐyé ⾥耶, Wángjiātái 王家臺 or Yúnmèng Lónggǎng 雲夢壟崗 into consideration. Marcel also works as a Project Manager for International Relations at the University of Zurich. MONTE-ANGEL RICHARDSON Monte-Angel Richardson is a graduate student at the University of Michigan School of Social Work. She earned her Bachelor’s from UC Santa Barbara, where she studied political science and global studies. Her research seeks to understand the ways in which collective understandings of traumatic events impact individuals and shape communities. She is particularly interested in drawing global comparisons when assessing communal response to shared grief and trauma. Her areas of expertise include China, Japan, Chile, and the United States. Along with her present study on collective grieving practices in Japan, she is currently conducting a study on communal responses to mass violence in the United States. JACOB ZHICHENG ZHANG Born and raised in Nanjing, China, Jacob Zhicheng Zhang is currently pursuing an M.A. in Modern and Contemporary Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Before moving to Chicago, Jacob received his B.A. in Art and Chemistry from Colby College in Waterville, Maine. His academic interests primarily lie in bringing attention to nebulous intersections, particularly those among "Asia" and China studies, sexuality studies, institutional research, and discourse studies. Visual art, especially media art, broadly defined, often frames his interests. Beyond the confines of academic practice, Jacob is interested in curatorial activities and using historical lenses to understand artistic endeavors. He is on the curatorial team to curate the 2019 MFA show of SAIC. DR. ROBERT TIERNEY Robert Tierney is professor and head of the East Asian Languages and Cultures Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His recent publications include Monster of the Twentieth Century: Kōtoku Shūsui and Japan’s First Anti-Imperialist Movement, (University of California Press, 2015); “Othello in Tokyo: Performing Race and Empire in Early Twentieth Century Japan,” Shakespeare Quarterly 62(4), December 2011; and Tropics of Savagery: the Culture of Japanese Empire in Comparative Frame (University of California Press, 2010). He is currently working on a translation of Nakae Chōmin’s One Year and a Half and a study of death writings in the Meiji period. He may be 10 contacted at

Keynote Speaker


Assistant Professor of History University of Chicago 11


         Johanna S. Ransmeier is a social and legal historian of China. Her book Sold People: Traffickers and Family Life in North China (Harvard University Press, 2017) describes the intersection of human trafficking and family life across modern history. She has published on subjects ranging from the lives of Beijing wet nurses, missionary perspectives on Chinese slavery, and changes to the law at the end of the Qing Dynasty. As assistant professor of history at the University of Chicago, Dr. Ransmeier teaches courses exploring the history of 20th and 21st Century China through court trials, human rights, sexuality and gender, and grassroots and microhistory. Her ongoing research investigates the expansion of legal literacy in the Republican period and the development of a Chinese legal imagination.           At present she is vice president of the International Society for Chinese Law and History and a fellow in the National Committee on United States China Relations’ Public Intellectual Program. Johanna Ransmeier earned her doctorate in Chinese history from Yale University and is a graduate of Amherst College. She has also worked as an advocate and interpreter for human rights and democracy activists and serves on the faculty board of the Pozen Center for Human Rights at the University of Chicago.


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Since the 1989 real-estate bubble burst, Japan has been in an economic and demographic crisis. The Japanese model of lifetime employment and wage increases by seniority (nenko jōrestsu), with its prescribed normative roles of the salaryman and the domestic housewife (shufu), has undergirded the country’s economic growth and social order since the end of World War II. This model of family, which was promoted in popular media during the American occupation, constitutes what Judith Butler has termed a “heterosexual matrix,” upon which the ideological ideal of nuclear family has been constructed. This presentation examines three texts produced after 1989 which question and alter the heterosexual matrix and the nuclear family model it is predicated on: the 1992 novel Twinkle Twinkle (Kirakira hikaru) by Ekuni Kaori, the 2003 film Tokyo Godfathers by Kon Satoshi, and the 2008 film Tokyo Godfathers by Kurosawa Kiyoshi. This presentation will examine the rhetorical, literary and filmic techniques each work uses to imagine alternative families outside the normative salaryman/housewife model, and will argue that each exemplifies a different approach to queerness and the possibility of non-heterosexual models of family. Ultimately, this presentation suggests that queerness, whether through non-heterosexual characters or through fundamental changes in relationships, is an essential means by which normative familial ideals are both critiqued and reconstituted in Japanese fiction. ANITA GREENFIELD - "THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE ENGLISH SPEAKER IN SOUTH KOREAN EDUCATION"

Over the past several decades in South Korea, English language ability has become a gate keeper in both education and the corporate world, and lack of access to private education prevents those of lower socioeconomic status from attaining a high degree of economic success (Park, 2009; Piller & Cho, 2013; Song, 2012). Therefore, English ability has become indexically linked with the high social class and economic status (Park, 2009; Song, 2012).


Previous studies have examined the role of media representation in the valuation of being an English speaker (Lee, 2006; 2014; Lo & Kim, 2012; Park, 2009; 2010) and the reproduction of these values by those who have learned or are learning English (Park, 2009; 2016); however, little attention has been paid to the role of language teachers in these processes. In order to fill this gap, I examine how English educators in South Korea construct the identity of the English speaker and with which social qualities English speaker identities are connected. The data for this project is taken from a larger ongoing project investigating the role of native English speaking teachers in the spread of English in South Korea. For this project, I examine a set of 24 interviews performed with English teachers (18 foreign teachers and 6 Korean teachers) in South Korea in the summer of 2015. I use discourse analytic methods as defined by Wortham and Reyes (2015) in which patterns of speech are traced across speech events to analyze trends in production of the identity of English language speakers. Preliminary analysis shows that English educators recognize English as an indicator of social class and as a measure of success and reproduce these ideologies in their classroom. In doing so, they associate English speaker identities with notions of modernity and liberality, as well as success and mobility. JINGYI GU - "'FANCHUAN' ON TV AND 'DRAG' IN DANCE HALL: GENDER IMPERSONATION AND THE LEGIBILITY OF CHINESE QUEER IDENTITY"

“Fanchuan (Travesti)” has always been a common practice in traditional Chinese performing art, such as Peking Opera. The performance of gender impersonation that carries on this cultural heritage finds its modern-day manifestations in Chinese TV programs that are aired on national broadcasting stations with “Fanchuan” performers, mostly male, dressing up as females and participating in singing and dancing shows. However, as drag culture, a core part of Western queer scene, has made its impacts in Chinese queer communities, Chinese queers also adopt the performance of drag in underground gay clubs and dance halls as a way of constructing and expressing their identities. Because of the disparity between publics’ perceptions of these two kinds of gender impersonation performances, the process of building the legibility of their identities becomes more complicated for Chinese queers. This research takes a cultural and critical discourse analysis approach to comparatively analyze the modern travesti performances on Chinese television programs, the drag performance in two major gay club/dancehall in Shanghai, as well as the mass media coverages of these two kinds of performances. By using theoretical lenses including gender performativity and the formation of counterpublics, this research examine how gender impersonation performance becomes a site for Chinese queers to explore their identities, develop communities, and negotiate with heteronormativity in the contemporary Chinese context.



In this paper I map Ainu activist efforts to establish their indigenous status within Japan onto the timeline of the development of international legal frameworks for recognizing and protecting indigeneity, paying particular attention to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN-DRIP). It was not until 2008, after prolonged effort on the part of Ainu activists, that Ainu were, at long last recognized as the Indigenous people of Japan by the National Diet. This victory was made possible, in part, by a series of international standards and measures developed in the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations (UN) to establish and safeguard the rights the world’s Indigenous communities. By analyzing the language used in ILO Conventions 107 and 169, UN-Drip, and Japan’s Ainu Cultural Promotion Act as well as some news coverage of conflicts between Ainu communities and the Japanese government, I explore how Ainu activists have engaged with and utilized these international frameworks at the national level. I argue that although the weight of international law has given Ainu communities much-needed leverage to help prevent further exploitation, these laws provide only a partial solution to problems Ainu continue to face. This paper strives to situate Ainu conditions within global discourses on indigeneity and settler colonialism and question to what extent these concepts are (il)legible in the Japanese context. MICAH MIZUKAMI - "'THAT'S WHY YOUR JAPANESE IS SO WEIRD': NARRATIVE POSITIONING AND IDEOLOGIES OF OKINAWAN IDENTITY"

Okinawan identity has been a subject of intense scholarly debate, highlighting the unique socio-political position the people of Okinawa have within Japan and Asia. There has been much work done on Okinawan diaspora identity (see Nakasone, 2002), including Okinawan communities in Hawaii (Chinen, 1981), Japan (Rabsom, 2012), and Bolivia (Suzuki, 2010), but there is little literature on identity in Okinawa. This study aims to fill this gap by asking how do Okinawans who live in Okinawa talk about their language and identity? In this study, I examine Okinawan identity through oral narratives. Using positioning theory (Bamberg, 1997), I analyze the layers of interactions within the stories and the story-telling worlds, and how these illuminate societal discourses present in interview-based narratives by individuals living in Okinawa who were born and raised there. These narratives demonstrate how positioning is used to construct rich Okinawan identities that juxtapose the hegemonic ideology of Japan as a homogenous nation state. They not only demonstrate the ways in which Okinawans view themselves, but also reveal the how past interactions with people from Japan, East Asia, and the West have shaped these views. These personal narratives give insight into the complexities of Okinawan identity in post-war Japan and how Okinawans position themselves and others to adhere to, or counter, existing national ideologies.



This presentation brings together postcolonialism and the Cold War in South Korea by examining how surviving “comfort women” (Pacific War) and “partisan women” (Korean War) navigated gendered politics and politics of representation in contemporary South Korea. As South Korea transitioned into a democratic society, a new form of women’s history or women’s subjectivity gained traction in progressive documentary films. The gradual shift in the public landscape of memory in the late 1980s created space for aging Korean women who experienced colonial and Cold War state violence to share their “living memories” in literature, documentary films, and human rights platforms. Yet, this turn to aging women as witnesses to historical trauma also exposed the gendered politics in male-dominated progressive circles. In response, key female filmmakers in the 2000s attempted to center the women as political agents. These women- former “comfort women” and former “partisan women”- were not asked what they saw or heard happening to male relatives but rather what they saw, did and thought. In these new projects, female filmmakers disrupted the privileged male historical subject and created new possibilities of representation for “comfort women” and “partisan women” beyond suffering and victimhood. MONTE-ANGEL RICHARDSON - "COLLECTIVE MEMORY AND MOURNING PRACTICES IN NAGASAKI, JAPAN"

Every country and culture enacts different processes for understanding loss. How grief and trauma are handled in a community are contingent upon cultural norms, historical processes, and the impact of dominant political narratives. The present study aims to develop a holistic understanding of how complex grief is processed on the communal level in Nagasaki, Japan. Twenty qualitative interviews will be conducted with community members and students of Nagasaki Prefectural High School leading up to the Obon (death) festival taking place in August. Analysis and interpretation of historical and personal memorials is also conducted by visiting memorial sites and engaging in facilitated group reflection. The researcher and a selfselected group will conclude the study by participating in a community intervention, during which individuals will come together to plan the events of the upcoming Obon festival. Survey data before and after the intervention will be gathered and integrated into the findings from the qualitative data coding. The study will take place June through July of 2018.



My paper deals with the representation Qin Shihuangdi and the constitution of society in Qindynasty China from a textual perspective, taking excavated Qin bamboo manuscripts such as the Liye or Yunmeng Longgang into consideration. At the dawn of imperial China, people of all ethnic backgrounds, social belongings and philosophical affiliations entered into the Qin universalist type of empire. The emperor’s imperative of territorial expansion meant unprecedented cultural integration and marked a break between the cultural structure of the people and the state. Along with the progressing bureaucratization of the state, significant power shifts took place. The division of space or societies into pre-defined norms and taxonomies was the fundamental act of constituting an institutionalized order across territories and cultural spheres. Laws, given that they do not trigger opposition and are widely applicable, represent a form of boundary constitution able to cross between the self and the other, the foreign and the indigenous, and exemplify a fundamental way by which cultural development is achieved. Ritual performances, similar to legal texts, could also be characterized as constitutive of boundaries which condition, and occasionally enhance or outlast, existing physical spaces. It is particularly interesting to examine if and how these notions developed in Qin and over time, and what conclusions one could draw regarding textual arrangement, genre tradition, and the narratives related to social identity. SHELBY STRONG - "SHOULD WE PASS ON 'PASSING WOMEN'?: THE STAKES OF (TRANS)GENDER ONTOLOGIES FOR SOUTH KOREAN NAMJANGYEOJA DRAMAS"

Scholarship has gendered the protagonists of namjangyeoja dramas, South Korean liveaction television dramas that focus on the lives of female-assigned people who pass as men, as “women”. I argue that we must push back against this narrow reading of namjang characters and instead embrace ambiguity and plural possibilities in namjang gender representations. The widespread pattern of namjang characters being depicted as being coerced into “confessing” that they are “women” calls into question the idea that their “real” gender can only be read as female, static, and singular. Indeed, a deeper reading reveals how some namjang protagonists are portrayed as identifying as gender non-binary and gender fluid. I propose that using “transgender” and “namjangyeoja” in conjunction with each other


can help us orient to transgender possibilities in namjang dramas and illuminate how the pervasive practice of using “namjangyeoja” to categorize performances of gender nonconformity by female-assigned people is imbricated with institutionalized forms of transphobic heteronormative familism in South Korea. Ultimately, I argue that we must be vigilant about how our choice to affirm certain ontologies (e.g., “namjangyeoja”) over others (e.g., “transgender”) enacts epistemological forms of violence that support larger, institutionalized projects of death by exclusion and illegibility. SUZIE TYGER - "CHANGING ONE'S GENDER: TRANSGENDER THEMES IN TORIKAEBAYA AND ITS TREATMENT THROUGH THE LENS OF ADAPTATION"

Modern adaptations of classic tales almost always face heavy critique, painting them as less valuable than the original material that they come from. In both academic criticism and journal reviews, contemporary popular adaptations are often put down as secondary, derivative, belated, middlebrow, or culturally inferior. Yet each adaptation that occurs, especially those that occur after long periods of time, contain rich amounts of material for analysis. The Heian period novel Torikaebaya has had many translations and adaptations over centuries, each one containing a wealth of information. By studying the different adaptations of Torikaebaya we can learn a lot about cultural shifts in areas such as sex, gender, sexuality, and religion over vast periods of time. Torikaebaya and its adaptations over thousands of years, showcase these different aspects of culture in their respective time periods. Contained in this well-structured tale and its adaptations, the different authors touch upon a variety of concerns related to their corresponding societies such as Buddhist ideals, familial and romantic love relationships, heterosexual and homosexual relationships, sex/gender issues, and comic situations. Each of the situations revolve around the unique circumstances of a pair of transgender siblings. This essay will focus on an in-depth analysis of the gender and transgender themes in the 1990s manga adaptation of the story Torikaebaya titled The Change. This different version of Torikaebaya written at a different time suggests some representative form of the sex/gender system and how transgender (or non-conforming) individuals were viewed during the 1990s. Scholars such as Gregory Pflugfelder have examined the sex/gender system in the Heian period novel and the sexualities expressed within the story but caution against applying contemporary terms, like transgender, towards such literature. However, I apply words such as transgender and homosexual as The Change was adapted well after these terms were integrated into Japanese vernacular.



In the past few decades, there has been an increase in the number of single, unmarried Chinese women, which is known as the “leftover women” (or sheng nu 剩⼥) phenomenon. Social scientists seek to understand this phenomenon with a focus on resurging gender inequality in China, but there is relatively little research on the role of heteronormativity- how heterosexuality is privileged and taken for granted as normal and natural in mundane, everyday practices. Drawing insights from queer theory and feminist study, this research aims to study heteronormativity as a complex set of institutional practices through untangling the interlocking forces between heteronormativity, family, marriage and patriarchy surrounding the “leftover women” phenomenon. Viewing leftover women as a discursively constructed social category, the author will first look at the news reports about leftover women, identifying and analyzing the assumptions and power relations underlying the hook stories. The author will also examine the increasing number of media articles helping the “leftover women” deal with societal and familial pressure, focusing on what is being problematized in the narratives. Using qualitative data from more than 100 media articles, this article discusses the interrelation between heteronormativity and gender inequality. The author hopes to demonstrate that conceptualizing heteronormativity in context-specific social institutions and everyday practices as demonstrated in the case of leftover women in China leads to fertile ground for inquiry into gender and sexuality studies.


The late Chinese photographer, Ren Hang, stands on the crest of a new wave of Chinese artists exhibiting in European countries. With this art star-making is a much less recognized reductive tendency that haunts Chinese art, its contemporary component being no exception. This essay intends to dissect the recent queer edition of this diasporic spectacle. The backdrop of it is tied to simplified understandings of homosexual subjects in China, tongzhi in colloquial Chinese. Wai-Tung, the male homosexual protagonist of Ang Lee’s The Wedding Banquet, is arguably the first cinematic presentation of a tongzhi to both Chinese and Western audiences. Wai-Tung functions in this essay as an instrumental site that aided the initiation of the global popular


discourse on tongzhi. Contrary to the prevalent framing of Ren as a subversive figure to statesponsored censorship similar to a tongzhi, my argument identifies a disjuncture to exist between Ren and the persona constructed around him. By presenting an alternative narrative that attends to Ren’s expressed intentions, I hope to complicate the understandings of Ren’s photographs of the queer-reminiscent subculture in Beijing. Harboring a great potential to eschew, if not directly eschewing, the apparition of tongzhi, Ren’s work signals a turn in the tongzhi identity in China, no matter how ephemeral and fragile it was.


The early 20th Century ushered in the expansive realm of Republican-era print, in which advertising in print media served as a public matchmaking platform. It provided more possibilities for males and females to connect across vast distances to find their potential spouses. The impact of this social phenomenon on the (re-)production of social categories and values has been under-examined. Specifically, this paper will discuss the narratives constructed and conveyed in the print media advertisements and focus on the rise of multiple, at times disparate, social responses relevant to the new ideology of gender roles and relations, immigrants, and state welfare systems’ participation to marriage advertisements. Furthermore, this paper will reflect on the influence of the marriage advertisement on intellectual knowledge – a narrative of (il)legibility - and related debates on gender conflicts and unequal domestic relations in cities such as Shanghai and Tianjin. Strikingly, this print media marriage advertisement facilitated the transformation of the traditional arranged marriage by promoting new types of marriage matchmaking. Additionally, it influenced the social, economic, and political foundations of the new family hierarchy.


Venue Map Foreign Languages Building (FLB)

Lucy Ellis Lounge (Room 1080)

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Campus Map


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Narratives of (Il)legibility in East Asia Symposium Program  
Narratives of (Il)legibility in East Asia Symposium Program  

Narratives of (Il)legibility in East Asia is the 5th Annual Society of East Asian Studies (SEAS) Graduate Student Symposium. The symposium i...