Queer Cultures in Digital Asia (10 December, 2021 @ CUHK online)

Digital media have transformed the cultures and practices of LGBTQ+ communities worldwide. Sexual minorities explore and express their identities, look for belonging and build communities, seek multiple types of intimate relationships, and undertake collective action on and through both old and new digital media. Extensive research has been conducted to examine the influences and implications of digital and social media platforms, such as Grindr, Her, Reddit, Tumblr, and more, on the social, political, and personal lives of sexual minorities. Meanwhile, digital media also facilitates the flourishing of subcultures that challenge normative conceptions of gender and sexuality and promote creative forms of gender expression through online literature, video production, and other forms of fandom (e.g. slash/yaoi/Boys’ Love/Girls’ Love communities). While increasing attention has been paid to new and digital media in Asia (Cabañes & Uy-Tioco, 2020; Dasgupta, 2017; Yue & Zubillaga-Pow, 2012), most contemporary studies of digital queer cultures still focus on North American and European contexts.

Inspired by Mobile Cultures: New Media in Queer Asia (Berry, Martin, Yue, & Spigel, 2003), this full day symposium aims to foster a critical interrogation of the intersection between queerness and Digital Asia. Digital Asia has been a topic for many previous articles, edited collections, and conferences (e.g., 2018 Digital Asia event at QUT and Baulch, Flew, and Li, 2019; 2019 Digital Asia conference organized by NIAS and Lund University). Being the continent with the most Internet users in terms of absolute numbers, Asia has a range of diverse digital infrastructures. While China’s digital media ecology operates as an entirely closed system, in other countries like India, a wide array of both Western and local digital media is available. Hence, in previous works on Digital Asia, issues covered have related primarily to infrastructures, governance, commerce, smart cities, nationalism, and so on. Voices from and about queer communities are underrepresented in this conversation. We understand “queer” as “definitional indeterminacy” (Jagose, 1996, p. 1). Queerness taps into a zone of possibilities regarding our sex, sexuality, gender, and intimacy. Asia also provides a complicated context for the development and survival of queer communities as social norms and laws regarding homosexuality and transgenderism vary across regions. There are regions where governments are taking measures to grant some rights to sexual minorities (e.g., Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage in 2019; Pakistan recognized transgender as a separate gender category in 2017); there are also places where homosexuality is still considered illegal (e.g., Iran, Singapore) or is not legally protected from discrimination (e.g., Hong Kong).

As Chen (2010) advocates, “using the idea of Asia as an imaginary anchoring point, societies in Asia can become each other’s points of reference” (p. 212). This symposium takes “Asia as method” as a foundation to provincialize Euro-American knowledge production. This critical vision of Asia has also been taken up in two special issues related to the intersection of transgender studies and Asia studies (Martin & Ho, 2006; Chiang, Henry, & Leung, 2018). In this symposium, we extend this approach to focus on the digital, giving equal significance to the triple concepts of “digital,” “Asia,” and “queer.” We welcome contributions that empirically examine queer digital cultures, platforms, practices, and communities from one Asian region or compare these across several Asian territories. We expect interdisciplinary contributions from the fields of media and cultural studies, gender and sexuality studies, regional studies, and related disciplines from the humanities and social sciences. 

Broad themes might include, but are not limited to: 

  • Politics of queer digital cultures
  • Digital intimacies
  • Digital circulation and/or economy of queer content
  • Intersections of sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, and more in digital cultures
  • Online activism 
  • Emerging digital practices and communities
  • Queer digital health and wellbeing

Submission Process and Key Dates

Please submit paper proposals to digitalqueerasia@gmail.com by 30 June, 2021. Proposals should include an abstract of 250–400 words along with a brief bio of no more than 100 words. Presenters will be notified of acceptance by 16 July, 2021. Draft papers (3000–4000 words) of accepted presentations are to be submitted by 17 November, 2021 for sharing and discussion among symposium participants. We are planning for a face-to-face symposium in Hong Kong on 10 December, 2021. Modest subsidies will be provided to symposium participants to cover airfare; two-night’s accommodation and meals on the day of the symposium will be provided. The symposium will convert to an online event as required in line with COVID-19 health and safety considerations or should travel restrictions remain in place. 

Following the symposium, presenters will be invited to submit full-length papers to be considered for publication as part of a themed collection. We are approaching major international media and/or cultural studies journals with a proposal for a special issue on the symposium theme.

Lik Sam Chan (Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Elija Cassidy (QUT Digital Media Research Centre)
Jia Tan (Chinese University of Hong Kong)


  • Baulch, E., Flew, T., & Li, N. L. (2019). The shifting institutional bases of digital Asia studies: Communication, culture, and governance in Asia-Introduction. International Journal of Communication, 13, 4579-4585. https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/view/10994/2800
  • Berry, C., Martin, F., Yue, A., & Spigel, L. (Eds.). (2003). Mobile cultures: New media in queer Asia. Duke University Press.
  • Cabañes, J. V. A., & Uy-Tioco, C. S. (2020). Mobile media and social intimacies in Asia: Reconfiguring local ties and enacting global relationships. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.
  • Chen, K. H. (2010). Asia as method: Toward deimperialization. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Chiang, H., Henry, T. A., & Leung, H. H. S. (2018). Trans-in-Asia, Asia-in-Trans: An Introduction. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 5(3), 298–310.
  • Dasgupta, R. K. (2017). Digital queer cultures in India: Politics, intimacies and belonging. London, UK: Routledge.
  • Jagose, A. (1996). Queer theory: An introduction. New York, NY: NYU Press.
  • Martin, F., & Ho, J. (2006). Editorial introduction: Trans/Asia, trans/gender. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 7(2), 185–187. 
  • Yue, A., & Zubillaga-Pow, J. (Eds.). (2012). Queer Singapore: Illiberal citizenship and mediated cultures. Hong Kong, China: Hong Kong University Press.

Supported by
Improvement on Competitiveness in Hiring New Faculties Fund, CUHK
The School of Journalism and Communication, CUHK
The Centre for Chinese Media and Comparative Communication Research, CUHK
The Centre for Cultural Studies, CUHK