Tag Archives: Queering Contemporary Asian American Art

Q&A with ‘Queering Contemporary Asian American Art’ editors Laura Kina and Jan Christian Bernabe

This Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month we are excited to share special features with authors and editors of new and recent titles that celebrate Asian and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

Today we speak with Queering Contemporary Asian American Art editors Laura Kina and Jan Christian Bernabe about their groundbreaking volume, published this spring, and corresponding website.

Queering Contemporary Asian American Art takes Asian American differences as its point of departure for bringing together artists and scholars pushing back against normative assumptions, expectations, critiques, and practices within Asian American art and visual culture. Taken together, these nine original artist interviews, cutting-edge visual artworks, and seven critical essays explore contemporary currents and experiences within Asian American art, including the multiple axes of race and identity; queer bodies and forms; kinship and affect; and digital identities and performances. The interdisciplinary and theoretically informed frameworks in the volume engage readers to understand global and historical processes through contemporary Asian American artistic production.

Why did you want to put together this book?

Laura Kina and Jan Christian Bernabe: Most of the contributors of Queering Contemporary Asian American Art met at a 2012 National Endowment for the Humanities supported summer institute entitled “Re-envisioning American Art History: Asian American Art, Research, and Teaching” at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University. There we discussed the ways in which we could advance the field of Asian American art history through our teaching, writing, and curatorial projects.

We were very fortunate to have listened to a lecture on “doing” Asian American art history by the late Karin Higa. In her lecture, she described those of us invested in the field as “the termites of art history.” It was a call to critique and nibble away at what we call in the book “the white hegemonic pillars of art practice, history, and criticism.”

We wanted to heed Higa’s call to find innovative and timely ways to work on Asian American art history and thus formed a group at the seminar called “Que(e)rying Asian American Art,” for which the title of our book is named. We saw intense interest by the members of the group to think about the ways in which queer theory could inform Asian American art criticism.

In many ways, the discussions we had during the seminar and at many conferences after the seminar had ended informed the creation of our book. We like to think that our book is a product of our termite activities.

What was it like writing and putting together this kind of volume?

LK & JCB: The process of writing the book was extremely intense but exhilarating! We invited seven authors to write critical essays for the anthology and in total we interviewed 17 artists, from emerging to established in their careers. We started the process of interviewing during the summer of 2014 with genderqueer and transgender artists in Chicago: Kiam Marcelo Junio and Greyson Hong, respectively.

We worked together virtually and in coffee shops throughout Chicago in the two years of the book’s production, and we made a point of organizing panel discussions at academic conferences with the various artists and scholars involved in the book as. There was a lot of transcription of interviews involved as well as selecting artwork to be in the book. Our last interview was in spring 2016 with Tina Takemoto, a San Francisco based artist who self-describes as a “queer, gender queer, gender nonconforming, Asian American dyke.”

What do you hope is the book’s most important contribution?

LK & JCB: We hope our book builds on a queer of color critique and advances the field of Asian American art and contemporary art. The book is a call to build queer coalitions of resistance, to push back against the dominant “model minority” paradigm in Asian America of assimilationist “good” behavior—of not making waves and being silent and complicit in the face of anti-blackness, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and so forth that pervades US culture.

What is your next project?

LK & JCB: We are currently curating a virtual exhibition inspired by our book for the Center for Art and Thought called “Queer Horizons.” In this current moment of political and cultural transformations, especially affecting people of color and LGBTQ communities, the show seeks to envision what a queer futurity looks like. This idea of a queer horizon, borrowed from the late Jose Muñoz, proposes what he calls “a greater openness to the world.”

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

LK & JCB: The artwork is the most important thing. On a basic level, we just want to introduce the important work of the artists and scholars in this book to a wider audience. On a broader level, we want to inspire readers to form their own queer coalitional politics; we are writing to bring together feminists and queer of color artists and scholars to take up our “termite activities” and keep on nibbling at the hegemonic foundations of art history.


Laura Kina is an artist and a Vincent de Paul Professor of Art, Media, and Design at DePaul University. She is the coeditor of War Baby / Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art. Jan Christian Bernabe is the operations, new media, and curatorial director at the Center for Art and Thought. The contributors are Mariam B. Lam, Eun Jung Park, Alpesh Kantilal Patel, Valerie Soe, and Harrod J Suarez. Featured artists are Anida Yoeu Ali, Kim Anno, Eliza Barrios, Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik, Wafaa Bilal, Hasan Elahi, Greyson Hong, Kiam Marcelo Junio, Lin + Lam (H. Lan Thao Lam and Lana Lin), Viet Le, Maya Mackrandilal, Zavé Martohardjono, Jeffrey Augustine Songco, Tina Takemoto, Kenneth Tam, and Saya Woolfalk.

National Women’s Studies Association Conference Preview

We are thrilled to attend the 2016 National Women’s Studies Association annual conference in Montréal, Québec, Canada, from November 10 -13, 2016.

If you will be attending the conference, we hope you will join us for a few book signings at booth #102. On Friday, we mark the publication of Figuring the Population Bomb: Gender and Demography in the Mid-Twentieth Century with author Carole R. McCann—the first book in the Feminist Technosciences series. On Saturday, we celebrate author Sylvanna M. Falcón and her 2016 NWSA Gloria E. Anzaldúa Book Prize winner, Power Interrupted: Antiracist and Feminist Activism inside the United Nations.

Edited by Rebecca Herzig and Banu Subramaniam, the Feminist Technosciences series seeks to publish emerging, intersectional, cutting-edge feminist work in science and technology studies. As science and technology move to center stage in contemporary culture and politics, the need for new and multifaceted analyses becomes even more pressing. Interdisciplinary feminist science studies continues to seek ways to improve science and technology, including addressing the persistent underrepresentation of women and people of color in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. The series will foreground insights from queer studies, critical race studies, disability studies, animal studies, postcolonial theory, and other critical approaches that reframe and reignite longstanding questions in feminist science and technology studies. Learn more in the series brochure.

UW Press Editor in Chief Larin McLaughlin and Direct Marketing, Exhibits, and Advertising Manager Katherine Tacke will be representing the Press at booth #102. Please come by to learn more about our new and forthcoming titles in women’s and gender studies. Use the #ReadUP and #NWSA2016 hashtags to follow along with the conference on social media.

Check out more information about the scheduled book signings and select featured titles below.

BOOK SIGNING WITH CAROLE R. MCCANN

Friday, November 11 at 4:00 p.m., Booth #102

Figuring the Population Bomb: Gender and Demography in the Mid-Twentieth Century
By Carole R. McCann

The debut title in the Feminist Technosciences series traces the history of demography as a discipline and the twentieth-century “facts” that created a panic about a looming population explosion. McCann reveals the gendered geopolitical grounds of demographic theories and measurement practices, popularized in the 1970s in Paul Erlich’s best-selling book, “The Population Bomb,” that continue to influence how governments and scholars talk about and influence women’s reproductive lives.

BOOK SIGNING WITH SYLVANNA M. FALCÓN

Saturday, November 12 at 10:30 a.m., Booth #102

Power Interrupted: Antiracist and Feminist Activism inside the United Nations
By Sylvanna M. Falcón

Winner of the 2016 NWSA Gloria E. Anzaldúa Book Prize

In Power Interrupted, Sylvanna M. Falcón redirects the conversation about UN-based feminist activism toward UN forums on racism. Her analysis of UN antiracism spaces, in particular the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa, considers how a race and gender intersectionality approach broadened opportunities for feminist organizing at the global level. The Durban conference gave feminist activists a pivotal opportunity to expand the debate about the ongoing challenges of global racism, which had largely privileged men’s experiences with racial injustice. When including the activist engagements and experiential knowledge of these antiracist feminist communities, the political significance of human rights becomes evident. Using a combination of interviews, participant observation, and extensive archival data, Sylvanna M. Falcón situates contemporary antiracist feminist organizing from the Americas—specifically the activism of feminists of color from the United States and Canada, and feminists from Mexico and Peru—alongside a critical historical reading of the UN and its agenda against racism.

Read a Q&A with the author

Read a guest post from the author on the United Nations Secretary-General election

FORTHCOMING SPRING 2017

Queering Contemporary Asian American Art
Edited by Laura Kina and Jan Christian Bernabe
Foreword by Susette Min
MAY 2017

Queering Contemporary Asian American Art takes Asian American differences as its point of departure, and brings together artists and scholars to challenge normative assumptions, essentialisms, and methodologies within Asian American art and visual culture. Taken together, these nine original artist interviews, cutting-edge visual artworks, and seven critical essays explore contemporary currents and experiences within Asian American art, including the multiple axes of race and identity; queer bodies and forms; kinship and affect; and digital identities and performances.

Using the verb and critical lens of “queering” to capture transgressive cultural, social, and political engagement and practice, the contributions to this volume explore the connection points in Asian American experience and cultural production of surveillance states, decolonization and diaspora, transnational adoption, and transgender bodies and forms, as well as heteronormative respectability, the military, and war. The interdisciplinary and theoretically informed frameworks in the volume engage readers to understand global and historical processes through contemporary Asian American artistic production.

OTHER FEATURED TITLES