Tuesday, November 4, 2014

[Friday Seminar Recap] Killing the Blues: Male Nostalgia and Paid Sex in Southern China

Killing the Blues: Male Nostalgia and Paid Sex in Southern China

Speaker: Kevin MING 
(Center Associate, Asian Studies Center, University Center for International Studies, University of Pittsburgh)
Time: 12:30 p.m., Friday, 10 October, 2014  
Venue: Room 12 Humanities Building, New Asia College, CUHK

The seminar
Dr. Ming’s talk discussed nostalgic consumption among mostly older men paying for sex in southern China.

Dr. Ming quoted from Kathleen Stewart: “the present rises before us in the ultra vivid mode of fascination- a fascination that is experienced as a loss, an unreality (or what Baudrillard [1981] calls "hyperreality"). In a world of loss and unreality, nostalgia rises to importance as "the phantasmal, parodic rehabilitation of all lost frames of reference.”

D. Kevin Ming 
When Maoist nostalgia is mobilized at present, it is forward looking and productive nostalgia, because the state claims the state exists to “serve the people” (為人民服務). People use these kinds of nostalgic claims about the relationship between the state and the people, to make very contemporary and practical demands on the state.

The nostalgia Dr. Ming referred to in the talk was not a productive nostalgia. Instead, it is a rear guard nostalgic masculinity, which attempts to hold on to the masculinity that the circumstances no longer support.

The attendants
 Dr. Ming’s primary ethnographic focus is less successful men in their 50s or 60s in the context of KTV space. They express their blue and sensitivity in their performative act of singing melancholic or romantic songs from the 90s and rehearsing tragic stories of failed romance. Dr. Ming explained the loss he referred to is a “slow wearing away” of something that these man are trying to hold on to.

Dr. Ming then shared his field data collected from the male clients and working women he met in the Haizhu Square and in hair salons (髮廊). From the stories, Dr. Ming showed us the actual interaction between the clients and working women, the daily life and emotional strategies of the salon working women and how the working women interpret their work. In the Q&A, Dr. Ming also shared his experience on how he developed the network to conduct this research.

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