tgiFHI: Yun Emily Wang, "Listening Incommensurably: The Impossibility of Sounding 'Out' from Queer Taiwanese Toronto"

Friday, January 27, 2023 - 9:30am to 11:00am

Smith Warehouse, Ahmadieh Family Lecture Hall, Bay 4, C105

Yun Emily Wang

Please join the Franklin Humanities Institute for its Friday morning series, tgiFHI! tgiFHI gives Duke faculty in the humanities, interpretative social sciences and arts the opportunity to present their current research to their departmental (and interdepartmental) colleagues, students, and other interlocutors in their fields.

Listening Incommensurably: The Impossibility of Sounding "Out" from Queer Taiwanese Toronto

"This paper draws on fieldwork from 2013 to 2018 (the pivotal years during which Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalized same-sex marriage) and traces how a group of queer Taiwanese immigrants listen to and for multiple incommensurable sexual modernities in Toronto. I analyze the roles of sound and listening in three ethnographic moments: 1) against the early debates and imaginations of queer equality, in their Toronto home, my interlocutors listened to and danced with a campy EDM remix of a Presbyterian anti-gay sermon from Taiwan, which had gone viral, and 2) vocally performed sexual deviance throughout their regular Mandopop karaoke nights. I juxtapose the sense of unruly excitement in these early days with 3) their sonorous participation in the 2017 Toronto Pride Parade, in response to Taiwan’s Supreme Court Ruling, with a make-shift 'party mobile' drowning out the other queer Asian activist groups. Through the lens of sound, I show how each of these moments perform a different socio-politically situated queerness. Together, the incommensurable and multiple sexual modernities audible to my interlocutors reveal how Western queer politics have become a kind of imperialism in itself, while underscoring that failures and complicity might just be inevitable sometimes. Ultimately, I show how fraught the popular political slogan 'sounding out'— so often deployed as a call to increase minority representation— can be. In its stead, I suggest 'listening incommensurably' as the more accurate sound metaphor for intersectional minoritarian existence."

Speaker Bio:

Yun Emily Wang is Assistant Professor of Music with a secondary appointment in Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies. Working at the nexus of sound studies, migration and transnationalism, and queer of color critique, Emily is broadly interested in how the politics of difference orient people’s experience of sound, and how, in turn, ideologies of sound structure race, gender, and sexuality. Emily’s current book project, Mishearing Home: A Queer Poetics of Sound from Sinophone Toronto, is an ethnography of everyday sounding and listening practices among Chinese-speaking immigrants interfacing the cunning of Canadian multiculturalism. Emily’s work has been recognized by multiple prizes at the Society for Ethnomusicology and the Society for Queer Asian Studies. Her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of Toronto was supported by grants from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council and the Government of Ontario, among others. She was previously a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Music at Columbia University

Breakfast is served @ 9 AM. Masks required.
RSVP for this in-person event:

photo of Yun Emily Wang
Photo of Yun Emily Wang
Friday, January 27, 2023 - 9:30am to 11:00am
Franklin Humanities Institute (FHI)
Event Co-Sponsors
Asian American and Diaspora Studies, Asian Pacific Studies Institute (APSI), Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies, Music