Living with Censorship: The Political Economy and Cultural Politics of Chinese Gay Dating Apps

Living with Censorship
Dissertation Defense Shuaishuai Wang

Living with Censorship: The Political Economy and Cultural Politics of Chinese Gay Dating Apps

Supervisors: Jeroen de Kloet and Rachel Spronk.
19 November, 10:00 hrs., Agnietenkapel.

This dissertation studies the political economy and cultural politics of Chinese gay dating apps, namely, Blued, Aloha, and ZANK. Unlike their Western counterparts such as Grindr and Jack’d whose functionalities are concentrated on location-based browsing, Chinese gay dating apps frequently integrate new features into their basic dating structures. Examples of which include live streaming, gaming, shopping, and overseas surrogacy consultation. Drawing on internet ethnographic data and interview data with their founders and users, this dissertation addresses two major questions. First, how do businesses based on gay dating apps develop amid close state surveillance? Second, how do users’ sexual and intimate desires shape and transform China’s digital pink economies and homosexual cultural politics? As China continues to problematize homosexuality in terms of obscenity and pornography in its regulatory documents, the booming economy of gay dating apps provides an entry point for rethinking the role of censorship in shaping Chinese gay lives. Using censorship as an analytical tool, I first show that Chinese gay dating apps can manoeuvre censorship in their favour to carry out economic activities. In this process, gay dating apps and the government become interdependent in the aspects of economic development, HIV/AIDS prevention, and internet security. I then examine how censorship has been woven into the everyday use of gay dating apps. As censorship increasingly disciplines users’ dating and live streaming activities, it has also inspired creative ways to satisfy their same-sex sexual/emotional needs in a regulatory environment. Together, this study shifts the focus in thinking about China’s homosexual cultural politics from identity formation, community organization, and media (mis)representation to the everyday sexual and emotional desires and related personal and bodily performances afforded by gay digital platforms.

Clocked! Time and Biopower in the Age of Algorithms

Clocked! investigates what algorithms are, how they operate, and how they evade our human perception through their machinic speeds of microtemporal processing. The study examines the influence of past and current technologies on human perception of time through the proposed concept of ‘techno-chrono-biopolitics’, and analyses how bodies are subjected to biopolitical control through time-related technologies. Highlighting the technological and chronological aspects of biopower, the works of Michel Foucault and his contemporaries are discussed to show how theories of discipline and biopower could be updated for the digital era. Against the ephemerality and invisibility that define our wireless internet, the work turns the focus back to bodies and the material dimension of technologies. From clock- use in colonisation and slavery to tracking algorithms on the Apple Watch and Quantified Self devices, the book traces how technology mediates time and inaugurates regimes of biopower on a planetary scale.

The abstract can be found here: https://dspace.library.uu.nl/handle/1874/373435 and here’s an even shorter summary:

Savage Embraces: James Purdy, Melodrama, and the Narration of Identity

In Savage Embraces: James Purdy, Melodrama, and the Narration of Identity, Looi van Kessel explores the ways in which the early works of the American author James Purdy undermine the notion of a stable and true identity. Writing in the 1950s and 60s, a time in which identity politics enjoyed increased purchase in the United States, Purdy imagines characters who feel the urge to act out their sexual desires without having to conform to oppressive identity categories. In so doing, Purdy is searching for a language that shows how identity is produced through narration. To tease out this language, Looi approaches Purdy’s writing through the mode of melodrama—a mode that focuses on the aesthetic dramatization of tensions in the plot—while also bringing his work in conversation with current queer thinking. Ultimately, this dissertation attempts to bring the disparate fields of narrative theory and queer theory in a meaningful relation with one another.

Public defense. Please confirm your attendance for the defense and the reception by sending an email to looidefense@gmail.com by 20 November.

Transnational Literary Projects

Anouk Zuurmond | University of Amsterdam | Transnational Literary Projects | Supervisor: Thomas Vaessens | 2015-2019

As financial and political crises make issues of a shared European identity more pressing, the question of what binds us together is currently discussed with an increased sense of urgency. To facilitate such reflections on a shared identity, different transnational projects have been instigated by cultural organizations, promoted by and mostly with generous financial support from EU-programs and institutes. Five of these cross-border initiatives, deployed since 2000, will serve as case-studies to ask what the strategies and effects have been of these projects. The main question at the heart of the proposed research is: What are the strategies and effects of these transnational literary projects? All of these transnational projects are based on a shared strategy to produce a similar effect, namely to engage intellectuals in the debate on a European identity from a literary perspective. These initiatives thus offer an opportunity to research this strategy by analyzing the intentions held by the organizers of these projects and asking why literature is deemed a valuable contribution to this debate. The effects will be assessed by looking at the outcome of these projects: both the cultural artefacts resulting from these projects and the role of these projects in light of the public debate on a European identity.

Governmentality in Cultural industries of China

Lin Jian | University of Amsterdam | Governmentality in Cultural industries of China | Supervisors: Jeroen de Kloet & Esther Peeren | 2015-2019

The main question of this study is what kind of governmentality the academia, policies and practices of cultural industries reflected in contemporary China. This would consist of three objects: the outcomes of cultural industries studies in Chinese mainland, the policies of cultural industries, and the agents (cultural workers and entrepreneurs, namely creative class) in cultural industries. I am going to frame the study from two sides: the production of knowledge around cultural industries and the subjectification of “creative class”. To explore these questions, the study would use the methodology of governmentality studies and cultural studies. I would take textual analysis into policy texts and academic works, and also arrange some interviews with certain people, as well as field research into certain areas.