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The Membranes and Queer Literature in Taiwan Featuring Chi Ta-wei and Ari Larissa Heinrich

"Taiwan in Dialogue” Lecture Series - Spotlight Taiwan Project

The Membranes and Queer Literature in Taiwan Featuring Chi Ta-wei and Ari Larissa Heinrich

Thursday, May 6, 2021
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM (Pacific Time)
Live via Zoom

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Register for Zoom Webinar Here

In 1995 writer and literary critic Chi Ta-wei published The Membranes (膜), a groundbreaking work of queer speculative fiction. Twenty-five years after its initial publication in Chinese, Ari Larissa Heinrich has produced a new English-language translation of this landmark novel. This online event will bring together the writer and translator to reflect upon The Membranes and its place in the history of queer literature in Taiwan. Divided into three parts, this event will feature short lectures by Professors Chi and Heinrich, followed by a dialogue with Michael Berry and members of the audience.

About The Membranes:

It is the late twenty-first century, and Momo is the most celebrated dermal care technician in all of T City. Humanity has migrated to domes at the bottom of the sea to escape devastating climate change. The world is dominated by powerful media conglomerates and runs on exploited cyborg labor. Momo prefers to keep to herself, and anyway she’s too busy for other relationships: her clients include some of the city’s best-known media personalities. But after meeting her estranged mother, she begins to explore her true identity, a journey that leads to questioning the bounds of gender, memory, self, and reality.

First published in Taiwan in 1995, The Membranes is a classic of queer speculative fiction in Chinese. Chi Ta-wei weaves dystopian tropes—heirloom animals, radiation-proof combat drones, sinister surveillance technologies—into a sensitive portrait of one young woman’s quest for self-understanding. Predicting everything from fitness tracking to social media saturation, this visionary and sublime novel stands out for its queer and trans themes. The Membranes reveals the diversity and originality of contemporary speculative fiction in Chinese, exploring gender and sexuality, technological domination, and regimes of capital, all while applying an unflinching self-reflexivity to the reader’s own role. Ari Larissa Heinrich’s translation brings Chi’s hybrid punk sensibility to all readers interested in books that test the limits of where speculative fiction can go.

Student attendees can pre-order The Membranes from Columbia University Press for a 20% discount using the code CUP20. This code will work when purchasing directly from the Press: https://cup.columbia.edu/book/the-membranes/9780231195713

Chi Ta-wei (紀大偉) is a renowned writer and scholar from Taiwan. Chi’s scholarly work focuses on LGBT studies, disability studies, and Sinophone literary history, while his award-winning creative writing ranges from science fiction to queer short stories. He is an associate professor of Taiwanese literature at the National Chengchi University.

Ari Larissa Heinrich is a professor of Chinese literature and media at the Australian National University. They are the author of Chinese Surplus: Biopolitical Aesthetics and the Medically Commodified Body (2018) and other books, and the translator of Qiu Miaojin’s novel Last Words from Montmartre (2014).

This event is part of the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies’ "Taiwan in Dialogue” Lecture Series - Spotlight Taiwan Project, supported by a grant from the Taiwan Academy, Los Angeles and Ministry of Culture, Taiwan.


Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies, Asia Pacific Center