"Vietnam Modern Art." Matiengartist. Accessed January 23, 2017. https://mavantiengartist.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/m%E1%BB%B9-thu%E1%BA%ADt-vi%E1%BB%87t-nam-hi%E1%BB%87n-d%E1%BA%A1i/.
The imperial gaze, ironically, was coined as a concept in 1997 by a white female film theorist. It describes a process of othering and ethnocentric redefinition, wherein the Other is described and judged in terms familiar and convenient to the privileged. In this way, the western viewer is made the central subject of the narrative, while the Other is made the secondary object (regardless of the attention afforded them) (78). As such, orientalism (or the post-colonial gaze) captures the specific manner in which colonial powers constructed their identities – dependent on their position within a global hegemony of power. In the first chapter of her book, Kaplan (the aforementioned scholar) introduces an interracial "gaze structure" (4) parallel to that of the male gaze. Without dwelling on the intersections of the two, and by adapting bell hooks' concept of Black women's oppositional gaze (intended to disrupt white spectatorship), Kaplan frames her work: "What happens when white people look at non-whites? What happens when the look is returned [...] startl[ing] whites into knowledge of their whiteness?" (4).
Gazing is, in essence, an exercise in positionality. It emphasizes the ways in which the facets of our identities (race, gender, class, sexuality, etc.) are not essential, but relational and continually biasing our reception of context, reality, and epistemology. Historiography is, then, an act of gazing. Euro/Americentricism and presentism go hand in hand – our geographic (read: racial) and temporal contexts inevitably obscure lived experiences of the past. Historiography is mired in identity politics, both explicitly and implicitly. As such, if one were to do a study of "global queer history," one would be surveying any/all "sexualities" (behaviors and/or identities?) that were conceived of as "non-normative" (minority and/or taboo?) in their respective societal contexts. However, if one were to seek out a "global tongzhi history," one would presumably be limited in scope to East Asia – why? Why are Euro/Americentric terminologies afforded an undue overarching application to non-Euro/American contexts while non-western descriptors are not? Is it just as absurd to envision a "global tongzhi history" that draws decontextualized parallels to the homonormativity of the "gay rights movement?" Or is it perversely useful?
Foucualt posits that the disciplinary gaze is inevitably internalized by the individual; Lemert claims deviance (violation of social norms) is a process of labeling that is also inevitably internalized. How do we combat the white, male historiographical gaze when we have internalized it and allowed it to shape our senses of self? How might we de-internalize and redirect the white (queer) man's gaze and his labels in order to prioritize, empower and effectively decolonize narratives of sexuality? How might white queers be "startled into knowledge" of their relative position – their non-universal identities?