Contested Belongings: (Un)Imagining National Subjects in Chinese Political Cultures

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Contested Belongings: (Un)Imagining National Subjects in Chinese Political Cultures
Stream: Gender & Sexuality
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Lin Song, University of Macau, Macau (organizer, chair, presenter)
Yajiao Li, Ochanomizu University, Japan (presenter)
Yingyi Wang, University of Washington, United States (presenter)
Ting Guo, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (presenter)


Despite intensifying mobilities within and beyond national borders in Asia, the constructed imaginary of unified, homogeneous “national subjects” continue to permeate political discourses and create tensions, disjunctions, and precarity. Offering a multi-sited critical analysis of the role and the intervention of “the nation” in Chinese political cultures, this panel probes into the meaning-making processes that complicate and contest official nationalist narratives, especially in terms of gender, sexuality, and affect. We start with a case study of married rural women’s struggle for land in China in the state’s increasingly regressive gender regime and legal system. We then offer a critique of the devaluation of work and social reproduction in Chinese NGOs against the backdrop of the state’s shifting modes of neoliberal governance. Next, we look at the gendered and affective rhetoric of motherly love evoked by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam amid recent Hong Kong protests, and explore its relationship with an appropriated Confucianism under the Xi Jinping administration. Finally, we investigate the structures of feeling in how the mainland Chinese student-migrants -- who straddle two nationalisms within the same country -- use digital media in Hong Kong. Collectively, this panel demonstrates how, instead of being monolithic and monologic, the nation is constantly imagined, reimagined, and unimagined through competing discourses.