Gender Studies Programme - Wednesday Gender Seminars

Spring 2021

Co-presented by: Gender Studies Programme, Gender Research Centre & Sexualities Research Programme, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

17 Mar 2021 (Wed) Family Matters: Gender and Motivations in Women’s Online Entrepreneurship 

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In the Wednesday Seminar of March 17, 2021, Ms. TANG Lin, a Ph.D. candidate in Gender Studies Programme and the Department of Sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, shared her ongoing Ph.D. research on how gendered experiences in relation to the family institution construct womens motivations in online entrepreneurship in China.

The fast development of the Internet in the past decade has witnessed Chinese womens greater participation in E-commerce compared to men. More than 50% of the business owners on Taobao are female (AliResearch 2015), and more than 70 % of the individual WeChat sellers are female (Xinmin Evening News 2017). In regard to entrepreneurial motivations, previous studies suggest while men are more economic oriented, women are more achievement-oriented and family-oriented. Women are more likely to venture into family-related businesses. Moreover, family-work dynamics are always important factors impacting womens entrepreneurship. Family structure and composition also have a profound effect on the acquisition and mobilization of entrepreneurial resources for women entrepreneurs.

By in-depth interview and online ethnography, Ms. Tang Lin examined in her research womens entrepreneurial experiences in relation to both their natal family and marital family The research subjects are mostly from a more privileged group: those well-educated young women who are the only child in their natal family and live in the more affluent eastern and southern coastal areas. A life-course perspective honoring four significant life events, namely university graduation, formal employment, cohabitation or marriage, and childbirth was adopted to offer a more dynamics-sensitive and multi-dimensional analysis on the comparatively high percentage of womens participation in online entrepreneurship.

By using “pull” and “push” to structure her analysis, Ms. Tang Lin pointed out two pairs of effects to pull those privileged young women into online entrepreneurship or push them out from it, during the transition of their status. As urban singleton daughters, they were initially pulled into online entrepreneurship when they were graduating from their postgraduate programs. Becoming a dài-goù, namely doing surrogate shopping for others, was regarded as a spontaneous move to make up for their parents’ investments in their overseas tertiary education. However, after they graduated and came back to their hometown, the social expectation of stable and ideal jobs — such as public servants, teachers, administrative staff — for women started to push them out from online entrepreneurship. As they and their parents perceived, online entrepreneurship could only be a temporal and transitional option.

If the first pair of pull-push effects happened in their natal families, the second pair of effects emerged in their marital family or marital family-to-be. When they started cohabitating with their marital partners, they could be pulled into online entrepreneurship to make extra money, especially when their partners were financially insecure. However, the motivation of online entrepreneurship had nothing to do with women’s empowerment. Although some of their marital partners would do pep talks or offer physical supports to help them run their online business, the aim was pretty much materialistic. Once they got pregnant and had their own children, childcare obligations would push them out from online entrepreneurship. As Ms. Tang Lin observed, their motivation for online entrepreneurship decreased dramatically in this life event. For those who still insisted on, they had to juggle between paid work in the household and their online economic activities.  

Written by:
Peng Yiyi  & Wu Yuehan,  PhD candidates of Gender Studies, CUHK 
Marco Teng Wang,
student of PhD in Linguistics, Hong Kong Baptist University


03 Mar 2021 (Wed) The Profile of Risk in Cervical Cancer Prevention in Southwest China

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During the Wednesday Gender Seminar held on March 3, 2021, Ms. WU Yuehan, Ph.D. candidate in the Gender Studies Programme and the department of Anthology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, shares her doctoral project on cervical cancer prevention in Chongqing, southwest China. 

Ms. WU Yuehan characterize the case of China on cervical cancer prevention as “a mixed phenomenon of the Global North and the Global South”. Along with the rise of pharmaceuticalization of public health, HPV tourism from the mainland to Hong Kong emerges as a unique social phenomenon among women-patients-consumers. However, underdeveloped medical infrastructure, insufficient healthcare investment, and the collusion between Big Pharma and local government in China result in 1/5 of the total death from cervical cancer in developing countries. Ms. WU Yuehan identifies three prevention strategies to cope with the burden of cervical cancers with different agents at all levels, namely, government promotion, medical intervention, and individual participation.

As an anthropologist by training, Ms. WU Yuehan utilizes ethnographic methods by interviewing patients as well as professionals and observing their interactions at a local clinic in Chongqing, southwest China. Since government-subsidized screening tests for cervical cancer are only available for rural women with local residency during a specific period of each year, migrant workers are therefore left out of the precautions. Guided by a relational framework, Ms. WU Yuehan argues that, from an authoritative perspective, cervical cancer is the risk object which sets social development at risk. In this sense, cervical cancer is more of a cancer associated with social developments for female migrant workers from rural areas than economic property. Women patients who live with human papillomavirus (HPV) always experience HPV-attached stigma such as debauchery and promiscuity, concerns and suspicions from their sexual partners, and biomedical uncertainty of whether they are infected or if they can recover. Ms. WU Yuehan ends her talk by pointing out that it is women who are at risk from a bottom-up perspective since they are the host of HPV.

-- Written by TANG, Lin, PhD candidate of Gender Studies

20 Jan 2021 (Wed) A “Phoenix” Rising from the Ashes: China’s Tongqi, Marriage Fraud, and Resistance

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At the Wednesday Gender Seminar held on January 20, Dr. Eileen Yuk-ha Tsang, Assistant Professor from the Department of Social and Behavioural Sciences at the City University of Hong Kong, shared her research on Tongqi in China conducted between 2015 and 2019. Tongqi refers to women who have unknowingly married closeted gay men and often discovered their husband’s secret after giving birth to fulfil filial piety. Dr. Tsang extended the concept of necropolitics and used ethnographic methods to uncover the social death situation of 59 Tongqi in Tianjin and Northeast China, and how they resist the circumstances with an agency.

Dr. Tsang first introduced her conceptual framework based on Achille Mbembe’s theory of necropolitics. She expanded the concept, which refers to the situation of underprivileged groups waiting for death, due to the denial of legal support, cultural recognition and basic human rights, to explain the social death situation that these Tongqi live in. She pointed out that, however, there is still room for Tongqi to exercise their agency, as they seek divorce, medical treatment, help from NGOs and the Internet to survive and resist the circumstances.
In terms of getting a divorce, Dr. Tsang discovered that a majority of the Tongqi with a low level of education did not proceed to divorce and maintain the status quo because they are jobless, lack of money and constrained by the social stigma of divorce. On the contrary, Tongqi with more education attempted to either settle their divorce out of court or go to trial. While those seeking an out-of-court divorce face challenges of weaker social bonding, lower social status and less power, those who go to court experience frustration because the divorce law in China favours men in terms of custody of children, settlement of property and so on. However, battling for a divorce is a way for Tongqi to obtain dignity, to fight for justice and to escape the death of their heterosexual marriage identity in order to start a new chapter in life.
Dr. Tsang also talked about Tongqi who got infected with AIDS have been proactively seeking help from NGOs and the internet to demonstrate their agency. Despite feeling depressed and hopeless, the women look for medical treatment and try to overcome the hardships with the care and encouragement from their children and parents. Moreover, Tongqi approach NGOs for professional and legal advice. They also join different social media groups to get support from each other.
With her search, Dr. Tsang intends to provide insights for policymakers and NGOs to understand and support Tongqi, raise the consciousness of how flawed marriage law in China affect their lives and reduce stigmatisation of Tongqi and homosexual men who enter marriage to fulfil filial piety.
-- Written by LEE Man Ting and XU Ran, MA students of Gender Studies

Fall 2020

Co-presented by: Gender Studies Programme & Gender Research Centre, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

18 Nov 2020 (Wed) “Little Bees Just Have to Keep Moving”: Temporary Work, Gendered Skills, and Excessive Mobility in Real Estate Sales Promotion in Urban China

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At the seminar held on 18 Nov. 2020, Prof. ZHAN Yang from the Department of Applied Social Sciences of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University introduced some interesting aspects of the middle-aged women channel workers in Chongqing from her recent studies.

Channel worker as a job to promote real estate to potential customers has emerged with the real estate market expansion in China's second and third tier cities. Channel work appeared in Chongqing after 2012. Its emergence was mostly due to market competition: Once one real estate developer decided to use channel work to do sales promotion, then others had to follow suit. Prof. ZHAN Yang did her research mainly in the Liangjiang New Area of Chongqing, where she observed how those channel workers worked and conducted interview with them and also with a few of managers of the channel department and real estate developers. She found that most of the channel workers were middle-aged women from rural areas. To promote real estate sales through telemarketing, ground promotion, interception and group-buying, middle-aged women were recruited nominally for their gendered qualities such as "persistent", "hard-working", and "with thick skin". However, Prof. ZHAN Yang argued that the real central skills for this job were sales talk and movement, and the latter was what she stressed on.

The channel workers moved according to specific maps. The channel manager would determine the "stratified circles" of target customers and marked out the locations they could gather as the effective spots for channel workers to go. There was also a map of deals for the channel manager to detect changes in customers' demand in the market. The channel workers must constantly move as the maps were constantly changing.

In effect, the constant movement caused excessive mobility with a high rate of layoff and resignation. What those channel workers were doing was indeed redundant and futile work. Work had always been prioritized over other things. To shake up this fundamental assumption of work, the question drew the attention of Prof. ZHAN Yang was: Why work that does not really serve others' need exist? Though the answer remains to be revealed, for channel work, Prof. ZHAN Yang argued that while being redundant, it bore some functions of social protection. That might be the meaning for "little bees" to keep moving all the time.

Written by : Zhang Yu, MA student of Gender Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong


11 Nov 2020 (Wed) Marriage as Filial Duty, Personal Choice or Social Expectation?: Exploring Differences in the Experiences of Single Women in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Tokyo

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At the Wednesday Gender Seminar held on November 11, Professor Lynne Y. Nakano from the Department of Japanese Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong shared her research on single women in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. Professor Nakano used anthropological research methods to interview single women in three cities. She analyzed and integrated the similarities of these experiences: on the one hand, they were expected to perform well in school and social work. On the other hand, they were expected to put family first. However, single women in the three cities face different situations under different social backgrounds.

Professor Nakano first introduced the essential characteristics of being single in East Asian cities and the general increase in the age of marriage for women. There are still low rates of premarital cohabitation, dating, premarital sexual relationship, and extramarital birth in the three cities of Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. Same-sex relationships are generally highly stigmatized. At the same time, with the expansion of job opportunities in the market, women tend to develop their careers. Marriage often makes women face discrimination and pressure in the workplace, so the fertility rate also decreases.

Professor Nakano then showed two social models of marriage, the Duty Model, and the Companionate Model. Her research found that Chinese society favours the duty model, Hong Kong society is a companionate model, and Japan is a hybrid model of the two. Therefore, getting married at the "right age" is a common choice for Shanghai women. Marriage is seen to be filial piety and the entry point for intergenerational care. Under the companion model in Hong Kong, marriage represents a personal choice, and the family environment allows them to remain single. Tokyo women usually choose to complete their marriage at the proper age expected by society, and they believe that marriage represents a social responsibility.

In East Asian societies, women still take the primary role of family caregivers. Single women also participate in family affairs and perform more family care responsibilities. Shanghai women will actively emphasize their contributions to the family and the nation to rationalise their singleness. Singleness in Hong Kong society does not cause moral condemnation, but women look after their families when they start to earn income. Tokyo women are proud of their economic independence, but they also see taking care of elderly parents as their moral obligation while childbearing is not necessary.

Professor Nakano also pointed out some existing problems for single women in the seminar. Firstly, since single women are expected to stay single temporarily, they often do not enjoy too much family resources support. Secondly, East Asian women staying single is not an expression of individualism, but a way to strengthen the entire family's economy and fulfil the social expectations of the family. They have undertaken most of the housework but have not received the financial support they deserve, which has exacerbated the uneven distribution of wealth. Finally, society still maintains a negative stereotype towards single women. They have to strengthen their contributions and invent new ways to fulfil their responsibilities for the family.

-Written by Lulu LI (PhD student), CHENG Siying (MA student) of Gender Studies Programme


28 Oct 2020 (Wed) Envisioning the City: Arts-based Research with Domestic Workers, Asylum-Seekers and Ethnic Minorities

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In the Wednesday Seminar on Oct 28, Prof. Julie HAM, Assistant Professor of Department of Sociology, Hong Kong University, and Ms. Merina SUNUWAR, Research Assistant of Department of Sociology, Hong Kong University, presented via Zoom online lecture on “Envisioning the City: Arts-based Research with Domestic Workers, Asylum-Seekers and Ethnic Minorities.”

Through the analysis of participatory videos, two speakers worked on two art projects with domestic workers, asylum seekers and ethnic minorities: "Visualizing the Voices of Migrant Women Workers" and “Sustainable Sunday Couture: Domestic Workers Upcycling Fashion,” exploring the role of emotion in these two participatory projects.

Participatory video by communities rather than professional producers breaks down the power relations between participants and researchers and replaces them with “relational rhythms.” Prof. Julie HAM focused on two of the three dimensions in the project "Visualizing the Voices of Female Migrants": gratitude and trepidation, which were linked to the "chemistry between the participants and the organizers" and to the "re-writing the city", respectively. Ms. Merina SUNUWAR introduced domestic work, minorities in detail to us home participatory experiments detailly, analyzed effect of the role and the scene change, confirmed that the participatory test method can be further analysis of the urban residents new character dimensions (experiential dimensions), its purpose is not to reduce or alleviate useful tension, but to help urban residents to recognize and use this kind of relationship (emotional rhythms) when adapting to new roles. Prof. Julie HAM concludes that shifting power relations in participatory video can lead to new voices and stories coming to the fore, and these may continue to be transformed into knowledge being produced.

written by Wang Yming & Zhong Weiyan (students of MPhil & MA in Gender studies)


21 Oct 2020 (Wed) Premarital Abortion: Reproductive Politics in Post-Socialist China


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In the online gender seminar on 21st Oct., Dr. LAI Yuen Shan Ruby, a Research Assistant Professor from Department of Sociology and Social Policy of Lingnan University shared her research on adult premarital abortion in China conducted between 2013 and 2019. In her research, Dr. LAI Yuen Shan Ruby used ethnographic observation and in-depth interviews to unravel the under-documented non-marital reproductive experiences of Chinese women, mostly migrants from less developed areas to an industrialized costal city, and also content analysis to examine the abortion cultural discourses in China.

According to Dr. Lai, adult premarital abortion is a window to investigate the interpersonal relationships that are entwined with the unmarried women, their intimate partners and parents in post-socialist China. These relationships serve as interfaces that connect the women’s reproductive selves to the macro social structures, and are interweaved in the lives of these women.

Under the universal project of living a “complete life”, factors leading to abortion vary from struggling between the girl and woman dichotomy, rejecting a hasty marriage, fear of single motherhood, pursuing a “nested birth” to expecting a quality child. The political propaganda of "You Sheng You Yu", the society's double expectations on women to be both an ideal female citizen and a virtuous mother, plus the celebration of the middle-class version of a harmonious family, overlap in the process of abortion decision-making.

For many women in Dr. Lai’s studies, they consciously define the premarital pregnancy as “the intimate trial” to evaluate their partners’ attitude towards the relationship, the maturity, reliability, and capability of serving as a future husband and a father. Even though men’s approval was crucial for continuing the pregnancy, their preference was not influential if the women did not want to carry on the pregnancy. The interactions of intimate couples during the pregnancy also reveal transgression of gender boundaries, for example, some men shouldered on the responsibility of domestic jobs and were also fragile during the abortion decision-making process.

Intergenerational interaction presents more dynamics in those women’s abortion decision-making process. Dr. Lai identified four patterns of parent–adult daughter interactions during the decision-making process of premarital abortion: excluding parents, referencing perceived parental views, consulting parents, and conforming to parents’ interferences. Her findings also suggest that some women have prioritized the preferences of their parents over those of their intimate partners because they consider intergenerational ties more enduring and reliable than ties between intimate partners.

Dr. Lai pointed out that within the context of a mature dating culture in urban China and the prevalence of premarital sex, women have achieved considerable control over decisions about sex and intimacy. But the unrestrained access to abortion is more an unintended benefit of the state’s modernization than a protection of women’s rights. While abortion is essential for women to exercise their bodily control and to survive in an increasingly uncertain and stratified society, it is insufficient for them to achieve reproductive autonomy.

The online seminar is part of the Wednesday Gender Seminar series co-presented by Gender Studies Program and Gender Research Centre, the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

(Written by Wang Teng and MA student Yi Xueman of Gender Studies)


14 Oct 2020 (Wed) Email Order brides under China’s Global Rise


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In the Wednesday Seminar on Oct 14, Prof. LIU Monica, Assistant Professor of the Department of Justice and Society Studies, University of St. Thomas, presented via Zoom online lecture on “Email Order Brides under China’s Global Rise”, a research project she has been working on since 2008. In-depth interviews and participant observations were conducted with 61 Chinese women who seek marriage with Western men through online dating agencies. By comparing the life trajectories and decision-making process of three cases, Prof. LIU illustrated how women in different socio-economic status envision Western men differently and how the privilege of modest-earning Western men is being challenged under China’s economic rise.

According to Prof. LIU, these women are mostly divorced, who have shared desires for out-migration marriage but with different motives and outcomes. Some of them are “financially flexible” but lose confidence in Chinese men and therefore turn to the foreign marriage market for “true love”, but discovered that the available Western men do not meet their expectations in either physical appearance or masculine charisma. Some of them are “financially burdened” and wish to improve their life quality through migration marriage, but ended up with an unhappy marriage or with sacrificed power and agency to have their marriage worked out. However, the Western men who order Email brides are relatively homogenous as they are in agriculture, manufacturing, and small business, left behind by globalization, incompetent in the local marriage market, and therefore look for women who fit their traditional gender beliefs via online dating agencies, but becoming less attractive to upper-middle-class Chinese women. The shifting configuration of global capital with the rise of China and other Asian countries, as Prof. LIU concluded, has challenged the hegemonic power and privilege of Western masculinity, and it is important to adopt an intersectional approach in future analyses of migration marriage.

(Written by PhD student Shi Yun and MA student Lee Man Ting of Gender Studies)


23 Sept 2020 (Wed) ‘To Shine’ or ‘To Die’?: ‘Womenomics’ and Women’s Worth to the Economy in Neoliberal Japan


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On Sep 23’s Wednesday Seminar, Prof. HO Swee-Lin, an associate professor of anthropology at the Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore, shared her research on ‘To Shine’ or ‘To Die’?: ‘Womenomics’ and Women’s Worth to the Economy in Neoliberal Japan via Zoom online lecture.

Based on individual interviews and participants-observations with more than 180 women in supervisory and managerial positions in Japan, Prof. HO investigated whether and how does Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s “womenomics” programme exacerbates women’s inferior and marginal status at the workplace as well as in the Japanese society?

According to Prof. HO, the Japanese government's economic plan which nominally aimed at creating a society where ‘All Women Shine' has actually turned women into economic tools. In the mass media, negative portrayals of professional women still persist. In the company of co-workers, female managers need to cost their own time and expenses in after-work drinking in order to secure their job position. However, job promotions often bring them more workloads and limited authority. In the office, women are the most vulnerable to sacrifice in corporate restructuring, they are more likely to take part-time jobs than their male counterparts. To the state, the new legislation on bulling and harassment in the workplace also contribute to the increased discrimination against female employees. In short, neoliberal economic changes in national policies and corporate workplaces have failed to truly liberate Japanese women with professional careers, but “enacting prevailing gender roles and reinforcing patriarchal structure”.

(written by PhD student ZHOU Siyuan and MA student GENG Siran, LIU Lianxian of Gender Studies)


Spring 2020

Co-presented by: Gender Studies Programme, Gender Research Centre & Sexualities Research Programme, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

4 Mar 2020 (Wed) 耽美真人CP與自我規訓式審查


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As an adaptation of online teaching in the current Coronavirus situation, Gender Studies Programme in The Chinese University of Hong Kong held an online Wednesday Gender Seminar on March 4, 2020. Wang Yiming, an M.Phil student from the programme, shared with the audience about her research on Tanbi CP and the online self-disciplinary censorship in China.

Tanbi is regarded as a subculture in which the male-to-male love stories are mostly written by and for female audiences in China. Wang Yiming took the Sina Weibo platform, a large social media platform in China, as her field site. She studied the Tanbi group that was suppressed and reshaped by online censorship on Weibo, and explored the interactions among online subculture, the impact of online censorship on it, and the new creation of this subculture. This research fills the gap in the complex relationship and representation between opposing network groups, and reflects on the impact of online censorship on the cultural ecology of Tanbi in Asia. 228 audiences registered and participated in the seminar, which reached the peak of Wednesday Gender Seminar participation. 


26 Feb 2020 (Wed) Desire for Sale: Live-streaming and DIY Pornography among Chinese Gay Micro-celebrities


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On Feb 26's Wednesday Seminar, Dr. SONG Lin, Postdoctoral Fellow from the Department of Communication, University of Macau, shared his research on live streaming and DIY pornography among Chinese gay micro-celebrities via ZOOM online lecture. Through a cultural and media studies approach, Dr. Song explores the development of the underground gay porn "industry" in China, the socio-political circumstances it is situated in, as well as its negotiation with China's Internet governance.

According to Dr. Song, the Chinese DIY gay porn has been largely facilitated by the development of social media, especially the popularization of live-streaming platforms. Also, the nebulous nation of Internet communication has enabled tactics to circumvent strengthened censorship. Applying a queer Marxist analytical framework, Dr. Song addresses Chinese DIY gay porn as an economy centered on desire. While it is a profit-oriented product that completely follows the capitalist logic, it is simultaneously produced at the margins of heteronormativity, state regulation, and corporate capitalism, with the potential to subvert the existing dominant order.


Fall 2019

Co-presented by: Gender Studies Programme, Gender Research Centre & Sexualities Research Programme, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

2 Oct 2019 (Wed) Refusing obliquely: On siren eun young jung and the three moments of performing in anomaly

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During the Wednesday Gender Seminar on Oct. 2, Prof. Soo Ryon Yoon, an assistant professor from the Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University, shared her research on South Korean media and visual artist siren eun young jung and her work Yeoseong Gukgeuk Project (2008-).

Yeoseong Gukgeuk (Women's National Theatre Performance), a form of theatre with all characters played by female actors, used to be the most popular art form in the 1950s' Korea but gradually declined partly due to its inherent tension with the heteronormative logic underlying the state's imagination of "true" national heritage.

Siren eun young jung, a Korean artist, has spent years to conduct a series of archival research-based installations and performances about Yeoseong Gukgeuk. Through close reading of jung's works and from the perspective of queer politics, Prof. Yoon analyzes the strategy in her Yeoseong Gukgeuk Project to play with and within the existing normative institutions of South Korea theatre rather than denying them. Highlighting three themes in jung's acts of intervention, i.e., the archival, the tradition, as well as gender and queer politics, Prof. Yoon explores how jung's project has interrogated the nationalized and heteronormative theatre history and opened up new possibilities to resurrect queer presence in theatre.


11 Sep 2019 (Wed) The performative effects of diagnosis: thinking gender, sexuality, and intimacy through diagnostic logics and politics


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On 11 Sep’s Wednesday Seminar, Dr. Sebastian Mohr, Senior Lecturer of Gender Studies and Director of the Centre for Gender Studies at Karlstad University, Sweden, shared his research on the performative effects of medical diagnosis. Dr. Mohr is also a visiting scholar at the Gender Studies Program at CUHK during the fall of 2019.

Based on the ethnographic research on Danish war veterans’ understandings of and experiences with intimacy, Dr. Mohr discussed how medical diagnosis transform people’s perception of their intimate self as well as how the medicalized intimacies provide potentials to rework biopolitical and cis- and heteronormative normalcy.

*For more information concerning Wednesday Gender Seminars, please click here.