A City of Two Tales: The Conflicted Story of Bangkok Narrated Through Queer Eyes

Tue April 9th 2024, 4:30 - 6:00pm
Event Sponsor
Center for East Asian Studies
Department of Anthropology
Lathrop Library
518 Memorial Way, Stanford, CA 94305

Harnessing the momentum propelled by the Korean wave, the ascendant Thai Boys’ Love (BL) dramas have emerged as a potent force on the global stage, fundamentally reshaping Thailand in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. This presentation delves into the intricate ways in which the BL-infused queerness has been crafted and invoked to spatialize the landscape of Bangkok, repositioning this megacity as an adaptive response to the challenges and opportunities arising from the unprecedented crisis. Following a BL-directed view, my analysis traces a multifaceted array of scenes, ranging from televisual and mundane to real and hyperreal, to illustrate how the queer spectacle is mapped onto Bangkok’s sprawling urbanity, rescaling the cityscape into two distinct realms—an outward, dynamic half that beckons international fans and tourist groups, enticing them to immerse themselves in the newly defined space characterized by queer love, and in contrast, the other inward half that is rooted in the mundane struggles of the locals, concealing escalating confrontations beneath the mesmerizing queer sceneries. Yet, amidst the simmering tension between these conflicting storylines, the BL-informed scenes emerge as a burgeoning flashpoint of societal upheavals, exemplified by recent LGBTQ-youth-led social protests that reverberated through Thai society, heralding a promising and transformative future for the nation. 

This event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP here.

About the speaker

Charlie Yi Zhang is an associate professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Kentucky. His research addresses the contested processes of globalization and deglobalization in the Asia-Pacific context, examining them through the lenses of gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and class. He also explores cross-border networks of resistance against various forms of subjugation informed by these processes. Trained as an interdisciplinary scholar working at the interface between the humanities and social sciences, Zhang has published research articles in journals spanning multiple fields, including the Journal of Asian Studies, American Quarterly, Feminist Studies, the Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, Feminist Media Studies, Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Feminist Formations, Global Storytelling: Journal of Digital and Moving Images as well as several anthologies. Additionally, he is the author of Dreadful Desires: The Uses of Love in Neoliberal China (Duke University Press, 2022), which received the 2023 Outstanding Annual Book Prize from the Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies.