Mediating quan: Human Rights and Feminist and Queer Media Culture in China

2019-21 Principal Investigator, General Research Fund, “Mediating quan: Human Rights and Feminist and Queer Media Culture in China” (Award Year: 2018/19, project number: 14612818), HKD381,000 (USD 48,900), 01/01/2019-31/3/2021.

In recent years, the term quan (权), which serves as the Chinese translation of “rights,” has gained currency in feminist and queer activism in China as exemplified by the popularity of rights-related terms such as nüquan (women’s rights), quanli (rights and interests) and quanyi (rights and benefits) for sexual and gender minorities. As political and legal reforms remain difficult, many of these activist practices take media-related forms such as women’s and queer film festivals or media campaigns to advocate different forms of quan for women and sexual minorities. What does the term quan actually mean when used by different individual feminist and queer activists and communal organizations in different contexts? What is the relationship between quan and the idea of human rights? How do the activists use media to engage, develop, or challenge quan and other rights-related concepts relevant to gender/sexuality? Furthermore, how do these quan and rights-based media practices in China shed light on current scholarly discussions on human rights? This study will look at feminist and queer media culture in China as processes that articulate, generate, and contest rights-related concepts and practices in order to create a dialogue between critical human rights studies that caution against Eurocentric, normativized, and teleological conceptions of rights (L. H. Liu 2014; Duggan 2002; Puar 2007), and the studies of rights-based feminist and queer social movements that stress the usefulness and importance of the rights discourse (Merry 2005). Drawing from semi-structured interviews with various NGO staff and volunteers, analysis of selected media texts and campaigns that promote the discourse of quan, participant observation in selected ongoing film festivals and media events, this project will offer new conceptualization of quan as mediation of feminist and queer rights that problematizes the Eurocentric, normativized, and teleological conceptions of rights, while not falling into the trap of Chinese cultural exceptionalism. 

近年來,「權」這個字以及相關概念如「女權」、性小眾「權利」和「權益」等在中國女權及酷兒運動中有一定能見度 。 面對政治和法律改革的困難,這些運動多以媒體相關形式來推動,比如舉辦女性及酷兒影展或媒體活動,為女性和性小眾發聲,爭取各樣「權」。當「權」為不同女權人士、酷兒運動者和組織在不同語境所採用時,它的實質定義是甚麼?女權及酷兒運動人士如何使用媒體來提出、推動或挑戰「權」以及其他性/別權益相關的概念?更重要的是,中國這些與「權」相關的媒體運動為現今學術界對權的討論帶來甚麼啟示? 本研究將深討中國女權及酷兒媒體文化如何傳遞、生成和爭辯各種權益相關概念的過程,由此與西方人權的批判理論研究,以及女權及酷兒運動的社會學研究進行對話。透過與相關組織的人員和義工進行半結構式訪談,分析所選媒體文本和運動對「權」的相關討論,並參與觀察研究當前影展和媒體活動,本研究將探討中國女權及酷兒運動中「權」的實踐如何對西方中心、規範化和目的論的人權概念提出質疑,又免於陷入中國文化例外主義的論述。