Decolonizing love: ambivalent love in contemporary (anti)sexual movements of Taiwan and South Korea
Pei Jean CHEN
ABSTRACT This article problematizes the modern construction of “love” in colonial and contemporary Taiwan and South Korea through historicizing the concept from the nineteenth century to the present. The conception of modern love in East Asia emerged during the late nineteenth century that coincided with the beginnings of civilization and nation-building discourses advocating as a strong mediator for the reconfiguration of social and intimate relationships. In the case of colonial Taiwan and Korea, the colonial governments and intellectuals constantly pivoted on “exceptions”—obscene sex, indecent behavior or illegitimate subjects—to justify their political legitimacy/hegemony to love that prescribed a normative social relationship. Fully embraced by colonial Taiwan and Korea, this mechanism was extended to their postwar regimes; that is, love is celebrated and worshiped without the recognition of its underlying ideology of discrimination and exclusion. I coin the term “love unconscious” to characterize the colonial legacies of love in the contemporary social movements in Taiwan and South Korea. Furthermore I examine how both religious groups and LGBTQ activism were stuck in the “love unconscious” with two cases of contested love: the definition of love in the dictionary, and the rhetoric of love in (anti-)same-sex marriage movements. This article argues that Taiwan and South Korea’s LGBTQ and marriage movements are based neither on Western discourses nor inspiration, but are instead driven by the reality and legacy of colonial history. To envisage the decolonization of love is to deconstruct the love unconscious and reconsider the history of colonial love.
KEYWORDS: Colonial Ambivalence; modern love; LGBTQ; marriage; decolonialization
Notes on contributor
Chen Pei-Jean teaches in the Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Literature at National Chengchi University. She received her PhD degree from the Department of Asian Studies, Cornell University in May 2016, and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Academia Sinica, Taiwan in 2016 and 2017. Her dissertation project tracks the processes of transnational exchange and translational shaping of the modern concepts of national language and literature, as well as romantic love and sexuality in early twentieth-century East Asia. Her current research project focuses on the legacies of colonialism and the cold war ideology of gender normalization in postwar Taiwan and South Korea. Her research and commentary have appeared in Bulletin of Taiwanese Literature, Journal of Taiwan Literary Studies, ARTCO and Culture Studies Monthly in Taiwan.