27 Jun 2019


On Porosity
By Zairong Xiang
Kaiqiao, literally meaning ‘open orifices’, is used in the medical classics Huangdi Neijing (the Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor, commonly dated to the Warring State Period, 475–221 BCE) to express the correspondence and connectivity between the human body’s inner organs and their respective external openings (eyes, nostrils, ears etc.), correspondences that are deeply entangled with the seasonal changes of the cosmos. Through a close reading of selected passages from the Inner Canon, the Daodejing, as well as some related hexagrams of the I Ching (Book of Changes), the talk will explore a range of connections this porous body-of-orifices gathers, between text, sexuality, knowledge, and the cosmos. What inspirations can contemporary debates in queerness, knowledge formation, and decolonization draw from both the heuristic apophasis deployed in the ancient texts in question and the idea of bodily porosity featured in them?

Zairong Xiang is a postdoctoral researcher of the DFG Research Training Group ‘Minor Cosmopolitanisms’ at the University of Potsdam and a former ICI Fellow, having received his PhD in comparative literature co-tutelle from the University of Tübingen and the Université de Perpignan Via Domitia with the Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate Cultural Studies in Literary Interzones (2014). His research draws from a wide range of disciplines, areas, and paradigms, notably feminist and queer theories, literature, and art in their decolonized variants in Spanish, English, Chinese, French, and Nahuatl.  His first book, Queer Ancient Ways: A Decolonial Exploration (2018), advocates a profound unlearning of colonial/modern categories as a pathway to the discovery of new forms and theories of queerness in the most ancient of sources, namely, Babylonian Enuma Elish and Nahua creation myths. He has co-edited a special issue of GLQ – A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies on ‘The Ontology of the Couple’ and is currently pursuing two projects, dealing, respectively, with the concepts of ‘transdualism’ and ‘the counterfeit’.


ICI Berlin
(Click for further documentation)

Organized by

Manuele Gragnolati
Almut Suerbaum

An ICI Berlin and Somerville College, Oxford Event

In English

First published on: https://www.ici-berlin.org/events/zairong-xiang/
Rights: © ICI Berlin

Part of the Symposium

Openness in Medieval Culture

This interdisciplinary symposium interrogates the presuppositions of open/closed distinctions in Medieval culture with a view to exploring the semantic field of openness through such related notions as inclusivity, vulnerability, unfinishedness, permeability, excess, profanity. These conceptualizations of openness in the period have had profound influence in a wide array of disciplines such as literature, material culture, hermeneutics, religion, linguistics, history, and history of art.

What does it mean to speak of an open text, an open body, an open mind, an open cosmos in the period? What kind of creative tension was there between the privileged spaces of the monastic cloister, the walled city, the moated castle, and their environments? What role did images of fluidity play in conceptualizing non-binary frames of reference? How did high medieval literature negotiate the exclusive experiences of the court, mystical excess, and sexuality with rhetorical strategies of inclusion toward a broader audience? How did manuscript culture and scholastic hermeneutics contribute to opening up texts to interpretation? How did texts themselves welcome uncertainty, open-endedness, and unfinishedness in their materiality and form?

Interdisciplinary conversations will aim to open up channels of communication between the Middle Ages and present discourse. Can such present ideas as open source, open access, open education, open society, and open relationship be brought into productive dialogue with conceptualizations and practices of Medieval Studies? Can openness be constituted as critical method?9:30 Morning Coffee

9:45 Welcome by Manuele Gragnolati and Almut Suerbaum

10:00 Ed Wareham
Opening the Gates: The Circulation of Texts and Images in Northern German Convents in the Later Middle Ages

10:30 Oren Margolis
The Book Half Open: Humanist Friendship in Hans Holbein’s Portrait of Hermann von Wedigh III

11:00 Almut Suerbaum
Including the Excluded: Strategies of Opening up in Late Medieval Religious Writing

11:30 – 12:00 Coffee break

12:00 Francesco Giusti
An Interminable Work? The Openness of Augustine’s Confessions

12:30 Pippa Byrne
What Was Open in / about Early Scholastic Thought?

13:00 Mary MacRobert
Early Church Slavonic as a Type of Open Tradition13:30 – 15:00 Lunch break15:00 Manuele Gragnolati and Francesca Southerden
Becoming Laurel: Openness and Intensity in Petrarch’s Rerum vulgarium fragmenta

15:30 Nicolò Crisafi
Open-Ended and Unfinished: The Vulnerable Dante of the Commedia

16:00 Monika Otter
Merlin’s Open Mind: Madness and Knowledge in the Vita Merlini

16:30 – 17:00 Coffee break

17:00 Discussion of
Giorgio Agamben’s The Open: Man and Animal
Moderated by Damiano Sacco

18:30 Zairong Xiang
Kaiqiao: On Porosity10:00 Morning Coffee

10:30 Benjamin Thompson
The Monastic Enclosure

11:00 Johannes Wolf
The Point of Compassion in The book of Margery Kempe

11:30 Annie Sutherland
Becoming Open in Anchoritic Literature

12:00 – 12:30 Coffee break

12:30 Brian McMahon
Speech-Wrangling: Shutting Up and Shutting Out the Oral Tradition in Some Icelandic Saga Manuscripts

13:00 Alastair Matthews
The Multiple Languages of Medieval Denmark: Towards a More Open Literary Historiography

13:30 Jonathan Morton
In One Hole and Out Another: The Sexual Politics of Psychic Interpenetration in Richard de Fournival’s Bestiary of LoveManuele Gragnolati and Almut Suerbaum
An ICI Berlin and Somerville College, Oxford EventThe event, like all events at the ICI Berlin, is open to the public, free of charge. The audience is presumed to consent to a possible recording on the part of the ICI Berlin. If you would like to attend the event yet might require assistance, please contact Event Management.Please register by 20 June 2019 if you would like to participate. Only a few spaces are available and those who are interested in joining should enclose a brief CV.


ICI Berlin
(Click for further documentation)

Organized by

Manuele Gragnolati
Almut Suerbaum
An ICI Berlin and Somerville College, Oxford Event
Cite as: Zairong Xiang, ‘Kaiqiao: On Porosity’, lecture presented at the symposium Openness in Medieval Culture, ICI Berlin, 27 June 2019 <https://doi.org/10.25620/e190627-1>