Sexualities in a transnational frame
In keeping with the collection’s emphasis on the transnational flows of information and imagery which are entangled with local expressions of sexuality, the volume opens with a section discussing sexualities in a transnational frame. Mark Pendleton asks a series of questions about transnational sexual politics. What forms do contemporary identity politics in the region take, and how do these relate to transnational models; how do nation-states, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and individual actors relate to structures of global governance; and what function does the (possibly fading) global hegemon, the United States, play in relation to these questions? Pendleton explores possible answers to these questions through two major case studies. The first case study traces the process leading to the international recognition that people suffer discrimination and violence on the basis of their perceived membership of certain categories of sexual orientation or gender identity. The second case study follows how a particular form of sexual practice — sex work – has been placed within ideological frameworks that subject it to transnational surveillance and criminalisation.
Fran Martin’s chapter on queer Sinophone cultures emphasises the problematic notion of trying to tie ideas and practices of sexuality down to specific regional or cultural contexts. Martin points out that ‘Chineseness’ cannot be reduced to a specific geographical locality or one set of cultural practices but is ‘always-already transnational’ in nature, taking place as it does across ‘multiple transnational contexts where claims to various forms of Chineseness are made’. Chinese as a written language, which uses a set of characters that are intelligible to most Chinese speakers, does not guarantee any kind of uniform ‘Sinophone’ culture, given the regionally distinct histories, languages and cultures within the nation of the People’s Republic of China as well as across the multiple transnational sites of ethnic ‘Chineseness’ in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia and the worldwide Chinese diaspora.
Vera Mackie and Miyume Tanji define the concept of militarised sexualities. They start from the premise that national governments have an interest in defining and shaping the sexuality of national subjects. When a national government is focused on military matters, then this will be reflected in the management of sexuality, too. Since the late nineteenth century, colonising forces in the East Asian region have made use of the sexual services of local women as concubines, lovers, wives and as sex workers. With the spread of Japanese colonialism in the region, the Japanese army made use of military brothels, eventually enslaving more than 100,000 women, largely from colonised nations. After the Second World War, East Asia became one of the most militarised regions on earth, with huge national standing armies and a concentration of US military bases. All of the military bases are surrounded by entertainment districts where sexual services can be bought; and incidents of sexual violence are ubiquitous around these bases. Soldiers also travel around the region on so-called ‘rest and recreation tours’. In some places, even after the soldiers have left, these places become destinations for the sex tourism industry. Not only do soldiers and tourists move in search of sexual services; sex workers also move in search of work.
When soldiers are stationed in a particular region, they will sometimes form more lasting relationships with locals, sometimes resulting in international marriages. There is thus a diaspora of military spouses (Barraclough in this volume). In various countries in the region, men who are unable to find marriage partners will seek partners overseas. Women, too, are exercising agency in seeking international marriage partners. As we see in Tomoko Nakamatsu’s chapter, the gendered flows of marriage migration reflect the comparative political economy of the region. Nakamatsu surveys the patterns offemale cross-border marriage migrations from poorer to richer regions ofEast Asia. She analyses these flows with reference to the concept of ‘gendered geographies of power.’