Queering the Ambiguity: Identity, Entertainment, and Politics in Chinese Popular Music
Chinese popular music displays increasingly high levels of queer visuality. But visual productions of queer romance and eroticism here do not necessarily produce a political presence of gender, sexuality, or the queer. On the contrary, the intervention of government in production and communication and of families in consumption and recontextualization produce its absence. This paradox creates an ambiguous social space where sameness and difference, art and eroticism, performance and performativity, hetero- and homonormativity, entertainment and politics are woven into a sophisticated network in which queers can make their political statements and opportunists can capitalize on these for publicity and popularity. The pursuit of stardom also seduces queer musicians to compromise through the entertainmentization of identity. This allows them to break into the mainstream market—on Sing My Song or The Voice of China—where their queerness is rendered as desexualized "difference" for purposes of sentimental spectacle. The ambiguous policy of “No Support, No Oppression, No Advocacy” for queer social movements seems to symbolize official permission for queer liberation in China, and a number of queer songs have been released, such as “Rainbow” and “Girls Love Girls.” But the dual logics of avant-gardism and commercialism in queer representation control the structure of ambiguity and maintain a heteronormative politics and social order beneath a flamboyant queer visuality.
Qian Wang earned his PhD in 2007 from the Institute of Popular Music in the University of Liverpool (UK) and was a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Sociology at Tsinghua University in China. He is currently a lecturer at the School of Literature and Journalism at Yibin University. His research focuses on Chinese popular music and its cultural scene in P.R. China. Looking at the redevelopment and transformation of Chinese popular music since the economic and political reform of 1979, he analyzes its intertwined relationship with industrial progress and the stratification of Chinese society and writes on politics, mass communication, gender, and sexuality. He is the author of Rock Crisis: Research on Chinese Rock Music in the 1990s (Shanghai Bookstore Publishing House, 2015) and cultural adviser to Ibsen International for Disco-TECA, a modern dance program exploring the lust and sexuality of China's disco fever in the 1980s. It has been performed in Italy, China, and Malaysia.
Sponsored by the Confucius Institute with support from IRWG's Lesbian-Gay-Queer Research Initiative (LGQRI).