Home > Catalogue > Annali di Ca’ Foscari. Serie orientale > 56 | 2020 > Sexuality as Translation. Locating the “Queer” in Vietnamese Debates on Sexuality

Sexuality as Translation. Locating the “Queer” in Vietnamese Debates on Sexuality

Richard Quang-Anh Tran    Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italia    



Transnational debates on LGBTQ identities have centred on the conflict between universalism and particularism. Do LGBTQ identities, which are presumptively ‘Western’ come to colonize other local cultures? Does the use of the idea of ‘queer’ constitute an infelicitous Western imposition onto other cultures? In this study, I challenge some of the nativist responses to these questions by problematizing territorial claims of ‘Asian values’ and so-called ‘Western’ queer sexualities by showing the cultural infelicities and hybriding moorings in both. The article does so by examining a public debate that exploded in the Vietnamese print media in the late 1920s over the phenomenon of amorous relations between primarily male youth in the then newly emerging French-Vietnamese secondary schools. Based on this archive, the study maintains that same-sex sexuality foregrounds the dynamic practices of cross-cultural translation from East Asia and France, reflecting both the anxieties and aspirations of the interlocutors. Belonging neither solely to Eastern nor Western cultures, the phenomenon reveals its fundamental cultural impurity. In so doing, the archive brings into high relief the constructed artifice of Vietnamese nationalist ‘tradition’ and the ‘foreigness’ of queer sexuality.

June 30, 2020
April 17, 2020
Feb. 19, 2020

Keywords: HomosexualityLGBTQFrench Colonial VietnamQueerThu XuTransnational debatesCultural translation

Copyright: © 2020 Richard Quang-Anh Tran. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.