Ancestral Routes: Embodied Return and Queer Asian Diasporic Performance
My prospective dissertation attends to how queer and trans Asian diasporic artists embody ancestral returns, spiritual reconnections, and land/water relations in their performance practices. By embodying a non-Western ancestor, queer Asian diasporic artists not only reclaim a queer genealogy and kinship relation outside of Western hetero- and homo/trans-normative structures, but also perform more-than-human intimacies (such as with land and water) that challenge the colonial anthropocentric narratives of the present. I argue for queer ancestral return as a place-based, embodied, and spiritual aesthetic practice that holds the potential for diasporic healing, radical imagination, and collective liberation.
I situate my project in the fields of Asian/American Studies, performance studies, queer and trans of color critique, and anticolonial thought. My intention for this project is to articulate an aesthetic praxis of ancestral return by, for, and about queer Asian diasporic artists.
I embody Nüwa, the goddess from the Chinese creation myth. She rubbed the soil together with water from the Yellow River and created human beings out of mud. In this performance, I not only seek to reconnect with my own diasporic roots in rural Shaanxi and Hebei, but also imagine a queer femme goddess that is in deep intimacy with both land and water. As I look back to my multi-layered migration and displacement, I also pay tribute to my ancestors whose survival makes my presence possible today. As Lisa Lowe writes, “[w]hat we know as ‘race’ or ‘gender’ are the traces of this modern humanist forgetting,” I ask, is it possible to unpack colonial legacies of the present by returning to and reimagining the past?