Nam Center Colloquium Series | Idols of Development: The Performance of Asian Modernity via Queer Thai K-Pop Fandom
In this lecture, I will focus on queer cover dance, or the copying of choreographed movements from Korean music videos, which is molding contemporary beauty aesthetics among young Thai people. K-pop cover dance is a definitive social activity among Asian sissies (young feminine gay men), organized in an extensive contest circuit leading to an annual competition in Korea. Thai sissies are among the most passionate and proficient practitioners of K-pop cover dance, and some groups, such as the Wonder Gay, Boys’ Generation, and Millenium Boy [sic], have become national celebrities. I examine how cover dance establishes a new social space for feminine Thai males to express themselves through the idiom of Korean female embodiment. Semiprofessional cover dancers constitute a class of “hyper-fans” who become “demi-idols,” with fan followings in their own right. I then explore Thai tom (masculine lesbian) gender performances that follow soft masculinity modeled on K-pop. I argue that Thai modeling of K-pop aesthetics embodies aspirations for personal and national development that index participation in a new cosmopolitan Asian sphere. Cover dance and related phenomenon in Thailand highlight recent shifts in Asian regionalism, idol fandom, and transgressive gender performance.
Dredge Byung’chu Käng is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University in Saint Louis. His research focuses on the intersections of queer and trans* studies, critical race theory, and inter-Asian regionalism. Dredge has published in journals such as GLQ (2011), Asian Studies Review (2012), and Transgender Studies Quarterly (2014), in addition to several edited collections. Dredge’s dissertation White Asians Wanted: Queer Racialization in Thailand, explores the desire to embody and partner with “white Asians,” or light-skinned Asians from developed countries. Dredge’s second project, tentatively titled Amazing Waves: Queering East Asian Popular Culture through Thailand, explores the impact of the Korean Wave and Cool Japan on the performance of Thai gender, sexuality, and race as well as queer Thai influence on other Southeast Asian nations such as Vietnam and the Philippines.
Dredge Byung'chu Kang, Postdoctoral Fellow, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Washington University in St. Louis