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UCLA to host conference on ‘comparative pornographies’

Two-day conference aims to explore differences between European and Asian pornography, consider intersectional approaches between two genres

UCLA in early March is set to host a conference titled “Comparative Pornographies: Transnational Approaches to Writing Sex, East and West.”

The conference will focus on the history and differences of pornography in the West and East, specifically in Europe and China in the 17th and 18th century, the event page states.

The conference will also seek to “break down the barriers” between the two to foster a more “transnational and intercultural approach to the qualities and development of pornography in the early modern world.”

In addition, the conference will “aim to raise general, theoretical issues that relate to both Western and Asian obscenity, by exploring, for example, the intersection of pornography and modernity.”

Though, to some, this intersection of pornography and modernity isn’t simply coincidental. According to “previously ignored texts,” some theories suggest that “the rise of pornography was somehow a harbinger of modernity.”

A tangent line of thought the conference will look into is the “terminology and genre” used to “categorize explicit Chinese and other non-Western sources as pornography.” Scholars will explore the “risks and benefits of applying Euro-American constructs, terminology, and genres to Asian literatures.”

As the event page states, “scholars and discussants working on the pornographic non-Western traditions” will take part so that they can “broaden the comparative conversation through a meaningful and exciting conversation among presenters, discussants, and audience.”

One of those scholars is Dr. Mark Stevenson from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who provided some information discussing this topic via email to The College Fix.

According to Stevenson, the idea behind his role in the event is to “draw attention to the existence of pornography as a literary genre in late imperial China (roughly 1550-1911),” and to get input from “scholars with expertise in the European history of pornographic writing.”

He said he expects there to be some differences in opinion on “what defines pornographic writing and the appropriateness of importing that term into Chinese cultural history,” but that that shouldn’t stop the conference “from trying to work out what people were doing writing and publishing obscene stories.”

“I think one other, more experimental side of the day will be to facilitate Europe and China specialists together forming a relationship with Chinese texts through some close reading of one or two examples,” Stevenson said.

The conference will feature several other scholars and speakers to provide different angles of the topic. The College Fix reached out to most of them but did not get responses. Speaker Timon Screech suggested The College Fix contact the organizers of the event. The College Fix reached out to the organizers multiple times with no response.

MORE: Arizona State restores students’ porn access

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Michael Jones -- Auburn University