How gay activism survives in an authoritarian state that maintains power while promoting the rule of law and social harmony
Mobilizing Gay Singapore
Rights and Resistance in an Authoritarian State
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Lynette J. Chua
Awarded a certificate from the International Convention of Asia Scholar's Book Prize acknowledging it as Ground-Breaking Matter in the Social Sciences category by the 2015 Reading Committee., 2015
Distinguished Book Award from the Sociology of Law Section of the American Sociological Association, 2015
For decades, Singapore's gay activists have sought equality and justice in a state where law is used to stifle basic civil and political liberties. In her groundbreaking book, Mobilizing Gay Singapore, Lynette Chua asks, what does a social movement look like in an authoritarian state? She takes an expansive view of the gay movement to examine its emergence, development, strategies, and tactics, as well as the roles of law and rights in social processes.
Chua tells this important story using in-depth interviews with gay activists, observations of the movement's activities-including "Pink Dot" events, where thousands of Singaporeans gather in annual celebrations of gay pride-movement documents, government statements, and media reports. She shows how activists deploy "pragmatic resistance" to gain visibility and support, tackle political norms that suppress dissent, and deal with police harassment, while avoiding direct confrontations with the law.
Mobilizing Gay Singapore also addresses how these brave, locally engaged citizens come out into the open as gay activists and expand and diversify their efforts in the global queer political movement.
"Mobilizing Gay Singapore is a timely and deeply engaging book, demonstrating how rights can be advanced effectively even when the law criminalizes not only homosexuality but also many forms of advocacy. Chua’s rich description of a successful rights movement within an authoritarian state makes a significant contribution to Southeast Asian studies and to the law and society field generally. Her exhaustive ethnographic interviews and careful data analysis exemplify ethnographic fieldwork at its best. Mobilizing Gay Singapore is outstandingly readable, almost addictive. This is an important book that will generate significant interest and attention across a range of disciplines."
"[A] very welcome addition to the LGBT literature about South-East Asia.... Mobilizing Gay Singapore fills a void in foreigners’ understanding of gay issues in Singapore. It will remain for some time the standard work on the subject and is a very welcome addition to the LGBT canon."
"The in-depth exploration of a contemporary gay movement in an authoritarian state is a unique contribution to the study of social movements generally and gay rights specifically. The concept and examples of pragmatic resistance also provide a very compelling contrast to how much of the literature discusses political opportunity, resource mobilization, the means of activism, and the place of law and rights in social movements.... Chua's concluding discussion of the nature of law and the politics of rights in Singapore is terrifically compelling and invites pairing with many of the major Americanist texts on law and social movements. Taken collectively, Mobilizing Gay Singapore is an engaging read and a very welcome addition to the literature."
"By focusing on interviews with gay activists, observations of movement activities, and analyses of documents, government statements, media reports, and legal documents, Mobilizing Gay Singapore details how a marginalized minority group strives incessantly to negotiate for acceptance and a legitimate status in the face of repression by formal law and political norms in Singapore society.... Mobilizing Gay Singapore offers a different approach to understanding social movements in authoritarian contexts while reminding its reader that there are cultural dimensions to law and political norms outside law that social actors must engage in to effect social change."
Preface and Acknowledgments
Lynette J. Chua is Assistant Professor of Law at the National University of Singapore.
In the series
Sexuality Studies, edited by Janice Irvine and Regina Kunzel.
Sexuality Studies, edited by Janice Irvine and Regina Kunzel, features work in sexuality studies broadly construed, in its social, cultural, and political dimensions, and in both historical and contemporary formations. The series includes titles located within disciplinary and interdisciplinary frames that combine theoretical methodologies with empirical research.