Queer China – an exploration of queer culture and activism in China

Graham Robson June 25, 2020

A new analysis of queer culture in contemporary Chinese art and literature and how it is driving political and social activism has been published by the pioneering University of Nottingham media studies scholar Hongwei Bao.

Queer China: Lesbian and Gay Literature and Visual Culture under Postsocialism (Routledge) is an accessible new book that examines the latest artistic and cultural production in China – from gay/comrade literature, to lesbian painting and girls’ love fan fiction, gay papercutting art, live theatre, digital films and experimental documentaries.

The book reveals a vibrant picture of queer communities and cultures from their inception in post-Mao China to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1997 and the ongoing campaign for legal recognition of same-sex relationships and LGBTQ+ rights.

Queer China is the result of a decade-long multi-disciplinary research undertaken by Hongwei Bao. It breaks new ground and brings a non-Western perspective to the wide variety of artistic activity currently reflecting LGBTQ+ life in contemporary China. The book weaves together original historical and archival research, analysis of texts, media and discourse, with extensive interviews and ethnography.

Dr Bao said: ‘In this book I have set out to de-Westernise queer theory and cultural studies of LGBTQ+ communities in China and East Asia more widely. I wanted to show how crucial a role the artistic culture of these communities plays in queer politics – the two aspects are to a large extent mutually dependent. I argue that political activism and social movements are not just about agitation, lobbying and mass mobilisation – community-based cultural and artistic production is just as integral to the political and legislative process. 

‘The literature and visual culture of Chinese LGBTQ+ communities can have a profound impact on wider popular culture, helping to disrupt rigid beliefs and traditional ways of thinking about all identities and their places in society.’

Hongwei Bao is an Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of Nottingham. His first book Queer Comrades: Gay Identity and Tongzhi Activism in Postsocialist China was published in 2018.

There is a special 20% off the purchase of Queer China, using the discount code FLR40 on the publishers website here