Queerying Identity: Intersecting Identities in Qing Dynasty China

Thomas William Whyke, Melissa Shani Brown

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingBook Chapterpeer-review


In this chapter, we contextualise our discussions of zhiguai tales by tracing ways identities were framed in the Qing Dynasty. Beginning with contemporary debates on the presence or absence of ‘homosexuality’ and ‘homophobia’ in the historic Chinese context, we emphasise the need to critically reflect on how we think of identity today and how this informs how we interpret the past. Focusing on the Chinese historic context, we unpick how gender and sexuality were intertwined, and how moral discourses around appropriate behaviour implicated ‘being’ or ‘becoming’ ‘human’. It then explores the congruence between critical theories of identity and traditional Chinese conceptualisations of identity as an unstable state, challenging the notion that fluid identities are a modern, post-modern, or characteristically ‘Western’ perspective on identity. We do this, however, in order to explore the ways in which the idea of ‘transformation’ was an integral part of hegemonic identity in the historic Chinese context. We consider the congruence between traditional Chinese epistemologies, and contemporary critical theories of identity, in order to explore how identity was imagined in the past, but also to reflect critically on how it is conceived of today.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPalgrave Series in Asia and Pacific Studies
Number of pages39
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePalgrave Series in Asia and Pacific Studies
VolumePart F1303
ISSN (Print)2662-7922
ISSN (Electronic)2662-7930


  • Deleuzian ‘becoming’
  • Gender and Sexuality in Ancient China
  • Homosexuality
  • Intersectional Identities
  • Qing Dynasty
  • Queer Theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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