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Guest Lecture: Sara L. Friedman (Indiana University)

Nov 01, 2018 | 02:00 PM - 04:00 PM

LGBT Childbearing and the Shifting Ground of Normativity in Taiwan and China: Rethinking Temporality and Materiality through Strategies of Legal Recognition

There is an ongoing debate in queer studies about whether by having children or seeking legal marriage rights, queer parents and couples reinstate heteronormative familial and societal values. Underlying these debates is a more fundamental question about the inherently transgressive nature of queer lives and whether queerness necessarily disrupts normalization. A body of work at the intersections of anthropology and queer studies has challenged unified and stable categories of “lesbian” and “gay” and their grounding in the sexual identities created by Euro-American, white, urban experiences. Building from this literature, this paper takes seriously the desire among some LGBT individuals in urban China and Taiwan to bear children and create intergenerational families, both as same-sex couples and through ties with families of origin. Based on ethnographic research with LGBT parents in Taiwan and China, the paper asks how individuals and couples strategize about childbearing and intergenerational family formation given the different legal, political, and social worlds in which they live. It compares biogenetic and legal-administrative strategies adopted by LGBT parents to support same-sex couple relationships and affirm bonds between children and a non-birth or biological parent. The paper asks how these strategies reflect parents’ deep knowledge of the different legal and administrative systems across the Taiwan Strait, especially given Taiwan’s pending legalization of same-sex marriage. How are these strategies pragmatic and creative responses to the current heteronormative state of family laws and social worlds? How do they anticipate a future sociolegal landscape, the substantive features of which remain unknown? Through addressing the temporality of legal consciousness and the material forms through which parents seek legal recognition, the paper elucidates the productive and future-oriented nature of LGBT parents’ family strategies, showing how they not only diversify the norm but potentially shift the very ground on which normativity is created.

Sara Friedman is Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. Her work focuses on the intersections of marriage and intimate life with state power, law, and migratory flows. She is the author of Intimate Politics: Marriage, the Market, and State Power in Southeastern China and Exceptional States: Chinese Immigrants and Taiwanese Sovereignty. She has co-edited two volumes: Wives, Husbands, and Lovers: Marriage and Sexuality in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Urban China (with Deborah Davis) and Migrant Encounters: Intimate Labor, the State, and Mobility across Asia (with Pardis Mahdavi). Professor Friedman’s current research studies alternative families, alternative education, and family law reforms in Taiwan and China.

This lecture is part of the lecture series "Gender and Sexuality in Transnational East Asia" organized by Shuxuan Zhou and Hyun Gyung Kim.

Time & Location

Nov 01, 2018 | 02:00 PM - 04:00 PM

Room 2.2051 (second floor)
Fabeckstr. 23-25
14195 Berlin