Wilson Wang L&S Arts & Humanities
(be)Labored Bodies: Black Corporeality in Aesthetics and Toil in China
Since the 2010s, voguing, a historically Black practice has become cherished in clubs in China. Yet, African merchants in Guangzhou constitute a community of foreigners portrayed by media outlets as “infectious”. Why is there such a discrepancy between the reception of the Black corporeal (laboring Black bodies) and the reception of Black corporeal practices (aestheticized labor of voguing)?
What constitutes the underlying racialization process in the current Chinese society, where the concept of racial taxonomy is deemed “occidental”, and the Blacks are deemed separate from any sociopolitical concerns? How does the existence of Black individuals differ from other ethnic minorities in China?
While Chinese scholars have written extensively on foreigners in China, little attention has been paid to the racialized formations of global aesthetics and capitalism, to which corporeality has become integral.
My project will deploy a close analysis of drag queens’ practices in Shanghai with an ethnography of Guangzhou’s “African merchant’s village” to provide insight into the relationship between the racialized aesthetics and transnational labor constituency underlying contemporary China. More concretely, through contrasting the Black corporeal in these two contexts, I examine the ostensibly optimistic transcendence of labor from the body in voguing, vis-à-vis the commercial activity of African merchants who physically traverses the porous “autonomous” nation-state.