Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In 2000, TIME Magazine heralded the Internet as the “Stonewall of Asia.” Tapping into transnational flows of Internet-based queer culture mostly, but not exclusively, from the “West to the Rest,” LGBTQ populations have managed to create identities, movements, and commercial worlds in a region notorious for the regulation of information and sexual conduct. Less analyzed, however, is how queers navigate the technical affordances and infrastructural elements of this medium. If queerness, based in feelings, emotions and affects, is necessarily an embodied culture, how does it become translated into a medium celebrated for its disembodying effects? Within this paper, I examine the “closet practices” (Seidman 2000) of Korean gay men in the chatroom of South Korea’s largest gay portal, Ivancity, to take advantage of the possibilities of Internet-based connectivity, while mitigating its risks. They construct walls within Ivancity’s cyber-closet that shield their sexual activities from the probing gazes of not only their families and mainstream society but also each other. These cyber-walls, in turn, interrupt the smooth exchange of the gay men as aspirational but simultaneously fear-ridden neoliberal actors, who “come together only to fall apart again,” as they sift through hundreds of men, trying to find their ideal partner. In reflecting upon the spatial practices of Korean gay men, this paper aims to theorize transnationalism, less as series of border crossing flows and networks, than as problematic life worlds, whose borders must be guarded against the threat of gossip and discovery.