top of page




CGED Research Seminar Series

Communicating Health Knowledges Across Clinic and Community: The Case of Sex Characteristics in Plurilingual Hong Kong


Speaker: Brian King, Assistant Professor, School of English, HKU

Respondent: Don Kulick, Chair Professor, School of English, HKU

Moderator: Mercedes Vázquez, Lecturer, School of Modern Languages and Cultures, HKU

Date: 28 September 2022 (Wednesday)

Time: 5:00 PM (HKT)

Delivery: via Zoom

Details and registration:

All are welcome. Please register and the Zoom link will be sent to you prior to the event.

The human body displays an array of variations of sex characteristics, ranging from expected, normalized variations to minority ones that do not meet medical and/or social norms of binary male and female. Terminology’s use in society is at the heart of coping and agency in the embodied experience of people with minority sex characteristics. Naming and classification systems have material consequences for general access to health care but also mental wellbeing. To date, the small amount of language-focused scholarship on sex characteristics and variation has been epistemologically oriented to the metropole. That is, theories developed in ‘global centres’ have been applied to data in ‘peripheral locales’ rather than being reframed or broadened by the ideas there encountered. By focusing on Hong Kong, and its distinctive cultural and linguistic context, an important mediation can begin in which knowledge from Asia can mediate dominant (Anglocentric) knowledge, troubling its hegemonic, colonialist positioning as 'abstract knowledge' as part of modernist geopolitics. The data analysed takes the form of an interview transcript in which a person with non-normative sex characteristics recounts, via metapragmatic narration, experiences with language use by self and others to describe or refer to intersex body traits. Metapragmatic analysis (talk about talk) is used to demonstrate stance-taking in the data and gain insight into the interviewee's knowledge and theorizations about discussion of sex characteristics in this plurilingual setting. Links are drawn to findings in other geopolitical regions not by providing ‘cases’ for further universalizing discourses but via an interdependent cross-fertilization of ideas.

Brian W. King is a critical sociolinguist from HKU School of English who received his PhD in Applied Linguistics from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Prior to joining HKU as an Assistant Professor in 2018, he was a faculty member at City University of Hong Kong for six years. His most current research focuses on the discursive performance of embodiments in health communication at the intersection of ethnicity, gender and sexuality. His work on these themes has also covered contexts such as sexuality education, computer-mediated communication, and the social construction of space/place. He has been a trustee of the Intersex Trust Aotearoa New Zealand (ITANZ) since 2010.

For enquiries, please contact Krystal Chan (

bottom of page