Gender and sexual pluralism in Southeast Asia
Thu 09:00-10:30 Room 3.08
- Viola Thimm University of Heidelberg
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Allies of Queer Muslims: Contesting Heterosexism and Homophobia through Progressive Islam in Indonesia
Diego Garcia Rodriguez University of Sussex
Homosecular frameworks based on the expectation of belligerent secularism among LGBT people, deserving of rights only if they adhere to neoliberal values (Scherer 2017), have denied the possibility of conceptualising queer ‘liberation’ within religious grounds. This has often led to the portrayal of ‘the queer Muslim’ as an oppressed subject in need of salvation. Contesting such epistemological constructions, an increasing number of progressive religious leaders and scholars have started to employ religious discourses to support the inclusion of queer people within Islam.
Existing scholarship has employed the concept of “queer Muslim activism” (Perkins 2016; Posocco 2016; Choi 2015; Shannahan 2010) to refer to the operationalisation of queer-friendly Qur’anic exegesis to bring about positive social change. While this type of activism has often been described in relation to organisations specifically defined as LGBT and Muslim (for example, the UK-based LGBTQI-Muslim organisation Imaan or the now extinct LGBTQI-Muslim organisation Al-Fatiha in the US), there remains a lack of research on the work of non-queer religious figures supporting queer rights.
Based on my fieldwork in Java between 2014-2019, this paper aims to examine the role of allies of queer Muslims in contemporary Indonesia. Empirically, I provide a critical account of the strategies developed by those I define as ‘progressive Muslim allies’ resulting from an ethnographic approach based on interviews and participant observation. Reflecting on my fieldwork data, I will present an analysis of queer Muslim allyship at the intersections between alternative Qur’anic hermeneutics and local values. Theoretically, I will call into question the essentialisation of Islam as a ‘homophobic’ religion by drawing upon queer theologies and Indonesian concepts such as gotong royong (roughly translated as working communally) and the Muslim notion of rahmatan lil alamin (mercy to all creations, including in this case sexual and gender minorities) to challenge secularist perspectives that have traditionally positioned non-normative genders and sexualities as against religion.
Characterization of Male Homosexuality and Dynamics of Displacement in Contemporary Vietnam
Van Phuc Nguyen University of Macerata
Historically, queer identities in Vietnam have undergone a significant transformation since the fifteenth century, when the first evidence of their existence was recorded. Surprisingly, this change seemed to be retrogressive as non-conforming sexuality, though enjoying a certain level of social approval until the French colonial period, increasingly became subject to hostile treatment and discrimination, particularly in the last decades of the twentieth century. Indeed, due to the traditionalist Soviet influence, queer people in Vietnam were considered to be inversive of heterosexual gendered norms, hence abnormal, and harmful to the institution of family. The deteriorating change, however, seemed to be in a reversing phase when the Vietnamese government lifted the ban on same-sex marriage in 2014, probably exerting some impact on the general public’s attitude towards the queer community. Acknowledging the scarcity of scholarly work on the topic, this paper aims to analyze how queer identities are characterized in contemporary Vietnam, focusing on the popular discourses, not least in online media. The author seeks to show that, despite the recent positive societal changes, queer people in the country are still commonly thought of as transgressors of heterosexual gendered norms – a psychoanalytical idea of a man’s soul “trapped” in a woman’s body and vice versa, that was popular in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Moreover, the author will go on to argue that the gender inversion belief is an example of displacement of queer identities – a substitution for the purpose of social appropriateness or containment – because it serves to suppress the subversive potential of such “deviant” patterns of sexual behavior. Therefore, the queer community appears to have been reduced to a homogeneous group of individuals with the same overgeneralized and problematically enumerated characteristics which depart from the regime of heterosexist normativity. As a consequence, the displacement discourse may serve to normalize the adversarial treatment of queer people as social outcasts and subjects of discrimination.
Colonial Archives and Philippine LGBTIQ History
Kiel Ramos Suarez Lund University
In this presentation, I aim to discuss a section of my doctoral thesis on the history of diverse genders and sexualities in the Philippines under Spanish colonial rule (1565-1898). I discuss my archival visit to the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain in January 2022. The Archivo General de Indias (General Archive of the Indies) was established in the 16th century and presently houses valuable archival sources on the history of Spanish colonialism in Asia and the Americas. Inspired by scholarship on queering the (colonial) archives, ‘Queer’ Asia and postcolonial studies, I discuss my own experience in facing barriers to archival access - bearing to mind challenges faced by scholars from the Global South as well as doing research in the midst of a global pandemic. I then discuss my encounter with the sources and the ways in which they contribute to deepening our understanding of the history of sexualities (i.e. the policing of gender non-conformity and “sodomitical acts” in the Spanish empire with a focus on the Philippines; the racialization of Chinese migrants in Philippine colonial society as committers of sodomia/pecado nefando – sodomy/nefarious sin). Through a self-reflexive narrative, I reflect on my own positionality as an LGBTQ-identifying researcher from the Philippines entering and navigating an important colonial archival space in Philippine historiography. I connect this archival experience to Philippine LGBTIQ history-writing more generally.
Metamorphoses of Vietnamese Revolutionary Novel Transformations of Morals, Perversions and Sexuality in Vietnamese Revolutionary Discourse
Filip Kraus Palacký University
The paper is a genealogical analysis of Vietnamese revolutionary novel that applies Foucault’s archeological methods to map discourses on sexuality, Vietnamese family and women’s position in society at large during prolonged time of August Revolution (1945-1975).
Across Southeast Asia, gender and sexual diversity is more restricted today than it was a hundred years ago. The sida-sida, for example, were a particular class of ritual-specialists among the Malays who were considered to combine female and male properties, and through this combination they were invested with spiritual power. The bissu, a particular class of ritual-specialists among the Bugis of South Sulawesi, occupied a special social position because they combined female and male qualities. The Ngaju Dayak, a group living on the island of Borneo, knew the ritual transgender specialists as basir, while in Burma they were famous as the nat kadaw. Gender and sexual pluralism has been severely transformed by colonial and postcolonial state policies in the context of economic and religious developments. However, transgender identities and practices still exist in contemporary times, albeit marginalized. The mak andam in Malaysia are ritual practitioners whose role is to plan weddings and prepare brides. Many male transvestites in the Philippines, in Thailand or in Indonesia work in the beauty sector. In Singapore, homosexuality is still punishable by law; at the same time, the city-state has become one of Asia’s gay capitals.
This panel invites presentations that deal with past and present gender and sexual pluralism in Southeast Asia and its complex negotiation processes between political, religious and economic spheres. On an empirical level it can be analyzed, among other things, how gender and sexuality are related to one another; what role transgender people play in contemporary Southeast Asia and how they perceive their identities. On a theoretical level, papers can address, for instance, interlinkages between categorization processes of what counts as “transgender”, “third gender”, “female”, “male”, “homosexual” or “heterosexual” in the context of nation state building, class formation, religion and ethnicity; transformations in understandings of “femininity” and “masculinity” or the role of morality and spirituality as part of these processes.