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Journal of the History of Sexuality 15.1 (2006) 146-148

Reviewed by
Chiou-Ling Yeh
San Diego State University
Situating Sexualities: Queer Representation in Taiwanese Fiction, Film and Public Culture. By Fran Martin. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2003. Pp. 372. $39.50 (cloth).

Fran Martin's Situating Sexualities is the first English-language book-length study on the representation of queer Taiwanese. Drawing from a wide range of scholarship such as queer studies, colonial and postcolonial theories, cultural studies, globalization studies, and transnational studies to analyze Taiwanese homosexuality, Martin discovers that the various models of studying sexualities that accentuate "a Euro-American psychoanalytic or medical model, a contemporary model of a global 'gay identity,' or a 'Chinese' model based on the centrality of reproductive familiarity" could not explain "the intricate heterogeneity of contemporary Taiwanese tongsinglian [homosexuality]" (17). Martin instead proposes that sexualities in contemporary Taiwanese society present an alternative model for studying queerness.

Situating Sexualities is divided into three sections. In the first section Martin grounds her analysis of Taiwanese "tongzhi [lesbian/gay] cultures" in contemporary Taiwanese history and argues that homosexuality was deployed [End Page 146] to articulate nationalist desires and a globalized image. She focuses on two iconic gay novels: Pai Hsien-yung's Niezi (1983, translated into English as Crystal Boys) and Chu T'ien-wen's Huangren Shouji (1994, translated into English as Notes of a Desolate Man). Instead of analyzing Pai's Crystal Boys herself Martin employs its critics' analyses to demonstrate two oppositional nationalist efforts: one was to legitimize the Republic of China (Taiwan) as the "authentic" China through the homosexual son, while the other positioned Pai's writing in modern Chinese literary tradition, thereby subjecting Taiwan to "Greater China" nationalism (56, 66). She subsequently uses Foucault's repressive hypothesis to argue that these two readings reveal a homophobic paranoia through deliberately eliminating homosexuality from their interpretation of the novel. Ironically, the omission not only could not suppress homosexuality but also became "an excellent illustration of the workings of homophobic paranoia, in which the repression of the homosexual subject is followed by its return as insistent persecutor" (70). Martin then turns her attention to Taiwan after martial law. Although the Taipei city government openly endorsed homosexuality and gay marriages in an effort to modernize and globalize the city, it in fact condemned public displays of sexuality engaged in by working-class gays and prostitutes. Nonetheless, according to Martin, the city's acceptance of middle-class-based homosexuality opened the door for the excluded people to contest the public/private division and to claim that "sexuality be understood as a public question and that the politics of intimacy be thought in the same breath as citizenship" (100). In a subsequent chapter Martin uses Chu's Notes of a Desolate Man to articulate that tongzhi, as "'drifting,' 'rootless' urban sexual subjects," already occupied various parts of the city (116). Public urban streets thus became a space for gays and lesbians to subvert the city's definition of proper citizens.

In the second section Martin focuses on the idea of "family" and how it produced "individual sexual and culture subjects" (42). She creates a new idea, hybrid citations, to articulate how "misquotes or wrong citations begin to produce new, resistant positions," especially when ideas were transmitted from one place to another (139). Hybrid citations enable Martin to interpret the heroine in Chen Xue's "Searching for the Lost Wings of the Angel" beyond the traditional idea of a good daughter, as now being a good daughter is intricately connected with being a lesbian. In this section Martin also discusses a well-known film, The Wedding Banquet. She skillfully gives a new interpretation to the film by arguing that although viewers might see the father's reluctance to disclose his knowledge of his son's homosexuality as saving "face," it in fact "reproduces [his son's] identity as gay man through its maintenance of [his] closet" (156). With this interpretation Martin thus...


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pp. 146-148
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