The Trajectory from Tongzhi Literature to the BL World

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Speaker: Dr Ta-wei Chi

Oxford Seminar on Visual Culture in Modern and Contemporary China   With his expertise on 'tongzhi' ('LGBT' in Chinese) in Taiwanese literature, Dr Ta-wei Chi will discuss how Taiwanese society’s understanding of tongzhi subculture has relied heavily on the act of reading literature and other materials. He will historicise how, by the 1990s (the decade of rapid democratisation in Taiwan), Taiwanese readers had shifted their attention from tongzhi literature to popular culture. Since the 1990s, boy love (BL) cultural products (such as BL manga and online videos) have enjoyed a fast-growing popularity. For today’s college students in Taiwan, many of whom are gay-friendly, their everyday understanding of homosexuality results substantially more from the BL cultural phenomenon than from the once-popular tongzhi literature. Dr Chi will explain how tongzhi literature and the BL cultural products converge and how they differ from each other. The trajectory from literature to the cultural industry is also the trajectory from a medium with the weight of (national) history to a transnational medium with much less historical baggage. Thus, this talk also presents the competition for cultural hegemony between literature and popular culture in Taiwanese tongzhi subculture. Ta-wei Chi, PhD Comparative Literature UCLA, is currently associate professor at the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature at National Chengchi University, Taiwan, where he teaches queer theory and disability studies. His science fiction novel Membranes has been translated and is available on the French and Japanese Amazon websites. His award-winning monograph on historicizing homosexuality in Taiwanese literature was published in 2017.