CGED Research Seminar Series

Travelling Terminology and Variations of Sex Characteristics in Hong Kong

Travelling Terminology and Variations of Sex Characteristics in Hong Kong


Brian King, Assistant Professor, School of English, HKU

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

Moderator: Laura A. Meek, Assistant Professor, Centre for the Humanities and Medicine, HKU

Date: 3 November 2021 (Wednesday)

Time: 5:00 PM

Delivery: via Zoom

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

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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. This study uses metapragmatic discourse analysis (i.e. analysis of talk about language) to mitigate cultural appropriation and commodification, treating interviewees as subjects who analyze language instead of as mere voices in data. Analysis of interview data with a Hong Kong intersex-bodied health professional serves to reveal affordances and constraints of the globally circulating yet locally interpreted terminology that is available in English and/or Cantonese, a focus that brings Asian and multilingual perspectives into the conversation. 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.

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