Dian Dian 典典

Academic & Activist 学者 & 社运人士

A Genealogy of the Translingual Practice of “Ku’er” and “Lala”

13: 40-14: 00 CET 28/05/2021

This paper focuses on two important terms in contemporary Sinophone queer studies: “ku’er (a creative translation of queer)” and “lala (a local term for women-loving women).” I argue that activists and scholars intentionally develop new discourses and imagine new strategies based on the implications of these two terms and therefore, construct them as analytical categories. While “queer” has travelled from the West to the Sinophone world as “ku’er,” “lala” also has travelled to the Anglophone world through scholarly work about Sinophone lala culture and activism. I prioritize the vehicle of these “travels” – the translation – within the framework of “translingual practice” (Lydia. H. Liu 1995). This framework replaces the notion of “target/source” language with “host/guest” language, overturning the hierarchy of “origin” and “translation”. Besides, translingual practice refers to the conditions of translation, or the dynamic process in which new terms and discourses gain legitimacy in the “host language”. It demonstrates how translation opens up a new historical space between the two languages where the non-traditional is not necessarily from the West, and the modern is not necessarily non-Chinese. In my work, I take this framework to discuss how “modern” concepts about gender and sexuality, such as “ku’er” and “lala,” become contextually meaningful and have acquired legitimacy in both languages (i.e., Chinese and English) in the process of “translingual practice”. I argue that the cross-cultural traveling of gender/sexuality discourses is not a one-way journey from the Anglophone to the Sinophone world, but a productive process where the irreducible differences between the host and guest language, the translators’ positions/agendas, and the competing (or complementary) politics confront each other and create new possibilities in both linguistic worlds. A better understanding of this process may help reduce some biased assumptions in studying gender and sexuality issues in the Sinophone world. 

Dian Dian is a curious wanderer. She looks forward to connecting with more people full-heartedly. She is currently a PhD candidate in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department at the Emory University in Atlanta, USA. She earned her MPhil in History at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and two B.A. degrees in both Chinese Classics and Philosophy at the Renmin University of China. She started volunteering in the feminist and lala movements in Beijing in 2009. Since then, she has developed an interest in gender/sexuality issues. She worked in the Chinese Lala Alliance from 2013-2016 and was the editor-in-chief of Queer Lala Times, the online magazine focused on gender and sexuality issues in the Sinophone world.