"YOU MAKE ME FEEL GOOD, I LIKE IT": NORTH AMERICAN MUSIC QUEER RAVE CULTURE, GAYSIAN IDENTITY, AND FINDING UTOPIA
Research supported and done through the UBC School of Journalism, Writing, and Media
The project will focus on a specific subgroup within the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and rave scene: queer Asian men (known within the community as "gaysians") and notions of utopia and escapism in rave events. Often touted as a "weekend escape" or "utopia," this study will examine how rave culture and ideology in the form of "Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect" (abbreviated to PLUR) influences queer understandings of love and community, the creation of a “global” gaysian network through raves, and how finding “utopia” in raves creates a space where gaysians can experiment and affirm their gender, race, and sexuality.
The research done by this project is an attempt to bring an underrepresented group (queer Asian men) into the literature on Electronic Dance Music Culture (also known as EDMC). It is an interdisciplinary approach to Cultural Studies that integrates the fields of History, Migration Studies, Musicology, as well as Cultural Theory into conversation with each other to analyze the phenomenon of the “gaysian” community within EDMC. Within the current academic literature about youth culture, EDMC, and Gender, Race, and Social Justice disciplines, the category of queer Asian men has remained largely out of the scope of research for many scholars, being relegated to a small section of any field work done. However, the topic of the queer Asian community consistently comes up in scholarly texts as an area in need of dedicated research. This research proposal thus offers a gateway into researching and incorporating this subgroup and subculture into the larger tapestry of other literature such as those noted above.
My goals for this study are threefold. First, to identify how gaysians operate within the commonly understood White-centric spaces of raves. Secondly, to explore the concept of utopia and escapism as understood by gaysian ravers to develop a method of understanding the queer experience within EDMC. Finally, consider how rave ideology in the form of "Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect" (abbreviated to PLUR) affects the way gaysians perceive and consider the parameters of platonic love and different models of romantic love configurations.
How does the predominant rave ideology of "Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect" (abbreviated to PLUR) influence queer understandings of love and community? Of alternative relationship styles outside of monogamy such as polygamy, polyamory, etc?
How do raves create a “global” gaysian community and queer rave scene (where gaysians network and meet each other at raves and travel to participate in events)?
Does the idea of a “weekend utopia” enable the development of raves being a space where gender as a social construct is reinforced through costume/dress, and gender performance? Are raves developing into a space where gaysians can experiment and affirm their gender, race, and sexuality (as queer Asian people)?
Based on the goals stated above, my hypothesis for this research and study is that the queer Asian raving experience is largely affirming of the queer experience. I believe that “PLUR as method” is a driving ideology that exists even outside the space of “utopia” that raves advertise themselves to be. Practicing and embodying “PLUR as method” also changes the way gaysians and other queer-identifying individuals understand platonic and romantic love configurations, with gaysians commonly creating larger, more globalized acquaintance groups and being more receptive to the idea of polyamorous or polygamous relationships given that PLUR is about “spreading love.” However, regarding the intersection of raves and ethnic/cultural identity, I suspect that raves might appear to be welcoming as a result of PLUR ideology, that under the surface level there is a level of racism and stratification of community not just between White and non-White communities, but also between White queer-identifying individuals and non-White Queer individuals such as gaysians. I also hypothesize that the concept of a temporal “utopia” and “escape” presented in raves is conducive to allowing queer-identifying individuals the flexibility and safe space to experiment with their gender identity, sexuality, and cultural/ethnic identity through key parts of gay rave culture. Key components in raves I will be examining include costume design, music, drug usage, and house/home parties (commonly known and truncated in the gay raving community to “homepas”).
The research method for this study are 1) interviews with self-identifying queer Asian men and 2) auto-ethnography as well as participant-observation at rave events. Within the first category, I will be looking to interview self-identifying queer Asian men within the ages of 18-40 who make up a broad category and sample size of the gaysian community. The choice of having a broad age category is deliberate in that it will assist my research and writing about how different generations of self-identifying queer Asian men have different perceptions of the self and of their own queer Asian community yet still equally enjoy the raving experience. This includes individuals that were able to “come out” as gay earlier in life or later in life. As such, this best represents the critical issue of how rave ideology erases age distinctions between individuals in this age group.
In regards to auto-ethnography, my approach to this methodology of research is informed by Dr. Sarah Pink’s monograph “Doing Sensory Ethnography.” I am a believer in treating the body and the senses as a canvas for research. Pink describes how being in the same space and time as the research participant group would be in as it pertains to research enables one to better position themselves as “insiders” to the participant group, thus allowing for interviews that integrate the sensual aspects of the participant experience with a high degree of authenticity.