David L. Eng

Department of English and Comparative Literature
Columbia University

"Queer Diasporas/Psychic Diasporas: Space and the World of Wong Kar-Wai"

In the late-twentieth century, arguably the two greatest challenges to traditional orderings of family and kinship have come through queer reorganizations of family as well as transnational movements of capital and labor. For instance, social movements such as gay liberation as well as second-wave feminism have culminated in collective demands for gay and lesbian marriage, attention to single parent households, and the legal expansions of non-traditional adoption. Concomitantly, in the fields of Asian and Asian American studies, a distinct theoretical vocabulary has arisen to describe transnational shifts in traditional orderings of kinship and family: "flexible citizenship," "satellite people," "parachute kids," "reverse settlers," "transnational adoptees," to name but a few.

"Queer Diasporas/Psychic Diasporas: Space and the World of Wong Kar-Wai" analyzes the oeuvre of this Hong Kong film director (and, in particular, Happy Together), investigating the ways in which queerness and diaspora pose an insistent challenge to normative structures of family and kinship in post-1997 Hong Kong. This presentation explores what might be gained politically and socially by understanding and reconceptualizing diaspora not in conventional terms of ethnic dispersion, filiation, and biological traceability but rather in terms of queerness, affiliations, and social contingencies. In particular, I pay special attention to the psychic dimensions of queer diasporas, for the one axiom underwriting Wong's vision of diaspora throughout all his films might be expressed in this way: the more his characters physically move, the less they psychically move. How does one provide a productive account of attachments to loss that organize queer diasporas in Wong's films? What are the identifications-with homelands, place of origin, myths of return and descent-that abet or prevent the formation of new Hong Kong/Chinese communities?


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