The Chinese Program presented the talk entitled, “Sex Work, Media Networks, and Transpacific Histories of Affect” on February 15, 2018. The speaker is Professor Lily Wong of American University. Professor Wong is a specialist on the politics of affect/emotion, gender and sexuality, comparative race, and media formations of transpacific Chinese, Sinophone, and Asian American communities. Her book, Transpacific Attachments: Sex Work, Media Networks, and Affective Histories of Chineseness, is published by Columbia University Press in 2018.
In the talk, Professor Wong discussed the figure of the Chinese sex worker—who provokes both disdain and desire—has become a trope for both Asian American sexuality and Asian modernity. Lingering in the cultural imagination, sex workers link sexual and cultural marginality, and their tales clarify the boundaries of citizenship, nationalism, and internationalism. Based on her new book, Transpacific Attachments, Professor Wong discussed the mobility and mobilization of the sex worker figure through transpacific media networks, stressing the intersectional politics of racial, sexual, and class structures. She focuses on the transpacific networks that reconfigure Chineseness, complicating a diasporic framework of cultural authenticity. While imaginations of a global community have long been mobilized through romantic, erotic, and gendered representations, Professor Wong emphasized the significant role sex work plays in the constant restructuring of social relations. “Chineseness,” the figure of the sex worker shows, is an affective product as much as an ethnic or cultural signifier.
The lecture was attended by around 60 audiences from faculty members and students. This event was organized by Chun-yu Lu and sponsored by WMCI and Reves Center.