This talk traces how the persisting authoritarianisms in Asia play a significant geopolitical role in shaping the politics of rights in the region. I first bring the South Korean case to center stage to examine how queer activists responded to the state’s internal authoritarianism and its continued legacies, particularly under the recent conservative political regimes. To challenge the state’s legal absence and willful ignorance of their rights, queer activists developed what I call a solidarity project to claim their rights in coalition with other marginalized groups (e.g., precarious workers, undocumented migrants, and people with disabilities) by demanding a comprehensive anti-discrimination law. In contrast, I address how queer activists in Singapore, under their decades-long authoritarian rule, bypassed state and legal mobilization and instead turned to neoliberal capitalism to engage in corporate diversity activism. Lastly, the Taiwanese case offers a story of the queer activists’ strategic resonance with the precarious state in their pursuit of equality as a response to the rising external authoritarianism of Xi Jinping’s China. This talk counters the Euro-American presumption of authoritarianism as a homogenous oppressive force against all human rights and argues instead that authoritarian legacies shape multiple pathways for a variety of rights politics.
Organized by the Centre for the Study of Korea and co-sponsored by the Mark S. Bonham Centre for the Sexual Diversity Studies, the Department of Sociology, the Women and Gender Studies Institute, and the Asian Institute’s Global Taiwan Studies Program and the Centre for the Southeast Asian Studies, University of Toronto.
Minwoo Jung is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies and Gender Studies at Loyola University Chicago. His research investigates the impacts of global and regional geopolitics on political, economic, and social life of marginalized groups and individuals. Drawing on multi-sited fieldwork conducted across East and Southeast Asia, he is working on a book project that presents a comparative ethnography of the intimate entanglements of queer lives and geopolitics. His work has been published in The British Journal of Sociology, The Sociological Review, Social Movement Studies, and positions: asia critique. He received his PhD in sociology in 2021 from the University of Southern California.