Brown Boys and Rice Queens

Spellbinding Performance in the Asias

256 pages

8 halftones

November, 2013

ISBN: 9780814759400



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Eng-Beng Lim is Assistant Professor of Sexuality Studies in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Dartmouth College. 

All books by Eng-Beng Lim

Winner of the 2013 CLAGS Fellowship Award for Best First Book Project in LGBT Studies
A transnational study of Asian performance shaped by the homoerotics of orientalism, Brown Boys and Rice Queens focuses on the relationship between the white man and the native boy. Eng-Beng Lim unpacks this as the central trope for understanding colonial and cultural encounters in 20th and 21st century Asia and its diaspora. Using the native boy as a critical guide, Lim formulates alternative readings of a traditional Balinese ritual, postcolonial Anglophone theatre in Singapore, and performance art in Asian America.
Tracing the transnational formation of the native boy as racial fetish object across the last century, Lim follows this figure as he is passed from the hands of the colonial empire to the postcolonial nation-state to neoliberal globalization. Read through such figurations, the traffic in native boys among white men serves as an allegory of an infantilized and emasculated Asia, subordinate before colonial whiteness and modernity. Pushing further, Lim addresses the critical paradox of this entrenched relationship that resides even within queer theory itself by formulating critical interventions around “Asian performance.”  


  • "Brown Boys and Rice Queens skillfully exfoliates the layers of erotic, political, and cultural investments in inter-racial queer intimacies between the Western desiring male subject and the nubile Oriental boy figure brought about by colonial and diasporic encounters between Asia and the West. Lim elegantly dissects the spell-binding cultural effects of this dyad and conjures new critical perspectives about race, sexuality, and performance. A finely crafted, meticulously analyzed, and intensely provocative multi-sited research, Brown Boys and Rice Queens will be a touchstone for future works and debates in queer and performance studies."

    —Martin F. Manalansan IV, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • "All in all, this book manages to cast its own spells and seductions and in its rendering of the centrality of the erotic dyad of the white man/brown boy to colonial knowledge production, Lim makes significant and indelible contributions to the histories of global performance, the Asias, queer theory and cultural colonialism."

    —Jack Halberstam, Emisferica

  • "Brown Boys and Rice Queens is an impressive feat that utilizes and challenges tropes in postcolonial studies, inter-Asia cultural studies, ethnic American studies, and theorizations of race and sexuality. Lim’s nuanced reading exposes their blind spots and extends the theorization of these allied fields in his sophisticated analysis of Asian queer performances. This book is a significant contribution to its major fields of queer studies and performance studies."

    Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism

  • “Whereas most scholarship that examines this Orientalist fantasy focuses on the trope of the brown woman, Lim draws attention to the often forgotten brown boy.  Lim expands upon and presses on the traditional colonial configuration of the East as an exotic, alluring locale that casts ‘spells’ deemed potentially seductive and also threatening to Western civility, thus requiring discipline and domination.  In this respect, the majority of scholarship on the white man/Asian boy dyad has focused on the subjectivity of the colonizer.  Lim, on the other hand, innovatively suggests that the dyadic encounter is mutually constitutive, where spells are cast in both directions from the East and the West.  Lim shifts attention back to the Asian boy, who is typically taken as invisible and ubiquitous, in order to decipher latent legacies of colonialism still extant in queer modernity.”