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Free Content Approaching transnational Chinese queer stardom as zhongxing (‘neutral sex/gender’) sensibility

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A generation of female queer stars has emerged in post-millennial transnational Chinese popular culture. They have amassed many female followers. Among these stars are Mainland China’s Chris Lee, Hong Kong’s Denise Ho and Taiwan’s Jing Chang. These celebrities are often characterized as ‘zhongxing’, which literally means ‘neutral sex and/or gender’, because of their non-normative gender and ambiguous sexual representation. This article aims to develop a lens to approach this emergence of queer stars and its sociocultural implications. Considering the genealogy of zhongxing and its historical relevance and taking on the reflections of Anglo-American queer theory, this article justifies the use of zhongxing over the usual English term ‘androgyny’. Recent media scholarship on Chinese queer stardom has provided an insightful entry point to this phenomenon. In this article, zhongxing is conceptualized as a sensibility for its liminal status as a non-identity category and non-sexual practice. It is ambiguous but also gradually being stabilized and shaped as specific forms of embodiment, a quest for individuality and reflexive authenticity, and an emerging queer feeling. The potentiality of zhongxing sensibility, as suggested by preliminary interview data, invites further research in the affective texture of everyday life and the transforming contours of gender and sexuality in transnational Chinese societies.

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Keywords: Chinese popular culture; Chris Lee; Denise Ho; androgyny; queer stardom

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: King’s College London

Publication date: April 1, 2015

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  • The East Asian Journal of Popular Culture is the first academic peer-reviewed journal for scholars, teachers, and students from around the world who have an active and passionate interest in the Popular Culture of East Asia. The journal is devoted to all aspects of popular culture in East Asia and the interplay between East Asia and the wider world. With the growth in popularity of Asian visual products in the Western world and the increasing strength of the Asian markets, this publication fulfills the need for an international journal that allows Western and Asian film, media, literary, music, fashion, digital media, television, art and cultural scholars alike to engage in discussion. In the last few decades there has been a huge rise in the interest in East Asian popular culture. The East Asian Journal of Popular Culture will be engaging directly with that trend. From film to music; art to translation and fashion to tourism, this journal will offer a forum where multidisciplinary work can come together in new and exciting ways.
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