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Queering Cultural China: Performing Nation through the Feminine Body

Published in Textual practice. 2011, vol. 25, no. 4, p. 671-87
Abstract This essay considers the ethnocentric and heteronormative instrumentality of national, ethnic, and sexual identities as functions of particular representational regimes. The focus of discussion is the material practice of transnational beauty pageantry and fictional representations of the disciplined feminine body as an icon of national and community identity. The essay argues that the diasporic beauty pageant works as an instantiating performance of “cultural China,” making visible a matrix of discursive relations that unifies the concept of a transnational community and, at the same time, exposing the disciplinary regimes that produce normative sexual, ethnic, racial, national, gendered subjects. The pageant is explored as a performance of the subjective in the public sphere in Catherine Lim's story “Father and Son,” in the preface to Maxine Hong Kingston's China Men, and in transnational pageants like “Miss Chinese International” and “Miss Chinese Cosmos.” In each case, the subject does not choose freely the roles that constitute the self as “Chinese” and “feminine”; rather, the subject is performed by these cultural discourses and in that way is constituted by them. Methodologically, the essay uses queer theory and Judith Butler's writings on gender normativity to critique the material effects of, and pre-conditions for, normative national, racial, ethnic and gender identities. The punitive dimensions of the discursive matrix that generates and controls identities are explored through the literary works of Lim and Kingston.
Keywords Chinese diasporaNationalismBeauty pageantsGender performativityJudith Butler
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MADSEN, Deborah Lea. Queering Cultural China: Performing Nation through the Feminine Body. In: Textual practice, 2011, vol. 25, n° 4, p. 671-87. doi: 10.1080/0950236x.2011.586775 https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:75235

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Deposited on : 2015-09-18

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