Sophia University Institute of Comparative Culture presents a workshop on

Sexual boundary crossings and sexual contact zones in East Asia

Saturday Oct. 2, 2010
Room 10-301 Sophia University Yotsuya Campus


Contemporary Contact Zones 2


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X-Gender : "Gender Ambiguity" in Contemporary Japan

S. P. F. Dale,
Sophia University

  This presentation looks at contemporary concepts of gender ambiguity, that is to say, non female/male gender identity, in Japan, and examines how these are and can be adopted as an identity as well as a conscious project of embodiment. In order to do this, the concept of 'X-gender' will be examined. 'X-gender' is a term that emerged relatively recently, and is being increasingly adopted by individuals who identify themselves as neither male/female. This paper will be based upon preliminary interviews with individuals who consciously identify themselves as ‘X-gendered’ (or its equivalent of being ‘gender ambiguous’), and explore how it is that they construct such an identity as well as justify it. What does it mean to be neither male nor female, and why is it that one feels a need to adopt or strive towards such a way of being? How is the concept of 'X-gender' constructed, and how does it utilize, negate or perhaps even transcend gender? These are some of the questions that will be explored through this preliminary examination. Dale, S.P.F. is currently pursuing her PhD at Sophia University, Tokyo. Her research focuses on the construction/deconstruction of gender/sexual identities, and seeks to locate alternative frameworks (i.e. not developed within a Western historical context) in the study of gender and sexuality
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Interracial Desires and the Psychosocial Dynamics of Sexual Preference Formation

Jamie Paquin,
Sophia University

  Tokyo is one of many cities in East Asia where interracial intimacies are a numerically small but symbolically significant phenomenon. And while many observers are drawn to post-colonial theories when attempting to explain the sources and contents of these desires, it is far from self-evident that as a sexual ‘contact zone’, Tokyo is best understood through a post-colonial lens. As a global economic and cultural centre populated by highly educated and well-travelled citizens, it is a stretch to frame Tokyo as a place where ‘disparate cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in highly asymmetrical relations of domination and subordination’ (Pratt 1992: 4). Moreover, it is not clear that the encounters within this space are so ‘disparate’, given over a century of Japan’s thorough engagement with modernity and its significant and increasing global influence. Finally, sexual subjectivities are not simple microcosms of historical and structural dynamics.

In this paper, I take an inductive approach toward understanding the formation, content and meaning of interracial sexual preferences amongst some Japanese and non-Japanese in Tokyo. Adopting a tripartite framework consisting of erotic habitus, erotic trajectories and erotic worlds, I look at the how interracial preferences develop in ways connected with but are irreducible to the broader workings of history, and show that the motives and meanings associated with these desires are markedly different than post-colonial theories would suggest. I also show how such an approach raises broader questions regarding how sexuality in general should be understood.
Paquin, Jamie is a PhD Candidate in Global Studies at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. His research interests include sexual preference formation and sexual politics, and developing a subject-centred sociological theory of sexual development.


Abstracts from the morning session 1
Abstracts from the morning session 2
Abstracts from the afternoon session
Program page