From "Quare" to "Kweer": Towards a Queer Asian American Critique

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It is insufficient to think of multiple dimensions of difference in merely some additive fashion--what is needed is a fundamentally different approach. E. Patrick Johnson and Roderick A. Ferguson, respectively, offer such approaches as well as inspiration for this dissertation. More specifically, they posit interventions into queer theorizing and queer studies that attempt to disrupt the (over-)emphasis on whiteness and instead turn the focus to racialized subjectivities. The centrality of African American racial formations in their queer of color critique, however, must be taken into account. Given the vastly different histories between African American and Asian American racial formations, including, but not limited to the ways in which these racial groups have historically been pitted against one another (for the betterment of privileged whites), it is especially important that we consider how the specificities of Asian American subjects and subjectivities might account for distinct queer of color critiques.

At the heart of my dissertation is the movement towards a queer Asian American critique, or "kweer studies," that directs attention to nationality and national belonging as a way of expanding beyond the black/white binary which currently predominates. In particular, the key components of nationality and national belonging for queer Asian American subjects and subjectivities that my study foregrounds are cultural, political, and legal citizenship. To this end my dissertation asks, what is needed to imagine and entrench understandings of queer Asian American subjects and subjectivities that are not rendered as alien, always already foreign, or simply invisible within discourses of cultural, political, and legal citizenship? Specifically, through participant observation, critical legal theory, and textual analysis I investigate kinging culture and discourses of U.S. immigration, revealing limits of existing formations that, respectively, have naturalized blackness as the sole focus of queer of color critique, and have narrowly sought queer immigration through seeking asylum and recognition of same-sex partnerships for family reunification, in order to posit a queer of color critique that helps imagine and create more expansive formations and better accounts for the material existence of a fuller range of queer bodies of various colors.