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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., May 21, 2021—Williams College senior Jonathan Deng ’21 has been awarded a Class of 1945 Florence Chandler Memorial Fellowship. The award provides a $30,000 grant to support a year of purposeful, independent study outside the United States.

Headshot of Jonathan Deng '21Deng, an economics and mathematics major from Houston, Texas, is interested in communities of queer diasporic Asians who shape their identities through performance such as pole dancing, vogue and drag. With a background in economics and a love of performance, he aims to explore the intersections of these fields to inform a more global understanding of queer life and socioeconomic policy, as well as discover new performance styles outside of the United States. 

Deng’s Chandler project, “Queer Asia: Shaping New Queer Economies and Performance,” will take him to Hong Kong, India, and Thailand, where he will explore how queerness is performed, commercialized, and modulated in various public domain spaces and within the diaspora. He also plans to perform alongside these communities through new styles such as voguing, Bollywood-style drag, and K-Pop dance covers. 

“Each of these sites and performance styles highlights the need to focus on various forms of self-expression, networks, and economies that deviate from the trajectories of the West,” said Deng, who won Williams College’s Carl Van Duyne Award and Kershaw Public Policy Grant Award in 2020. “While locating these spaces might be challenging, I will connect with queer organizations to guide me to particular nightlife sites and performers. Along the way, I will help plan an annual queer festival in Hong Kong, assist on a project that helps transgender communities in India find employment, and promote better livelihood options for sex workers in Thailand through social support groups.” 

By connecting with queer student networks, local queer businesses, and key government and corporate stakeholders, Deng aims to gain to new perspectives on how non-Western queer subjects make their livings, how they choose to perform themselves, and how they can build their own social, cultural, and economic capital via their local queer networks. As Deng said, “Through these relationships, I hope to learn and contribute to localized efforts of coping with these queer struggles.”

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Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.

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