Transgender histories have typically been studied within national frameworks. This lecture will utilize debates in diaspora and postcolonial theory to establish a connective platform in transgender historiography. In particular, I will focus on the methodological stakes conditioned by Sinophone studies, which concerns itself primarily with the formation of Sinitic-language communities and cultures outside China or on the margins of China and Chineseness. I ask: with the recent rise of China, how do we study global queer experiences ethically and epistemologically? What can an anti-hegemonic investigation of transgender China look like? In what ways can queer/trans theory be recalibrated and retooled accordingly? Although the field of queer Asian studies has convincingly “decolonized” Western theoretical norms, we must turn this decolonizing gaze upon itself in order to avoid reinstating an opposite set of biases: the scaffolding of Asia-nativism. Surveying a wide range of sources—from the archives of sexology and law to press reports of intersexuality—this lecture develops “transtopia,” a continuum model for anti-transphobic inquiry, and introduces the specter of Asian empires to the historicization of transgender experience.
About the Speaker
Howard Chiang is Associate Professor of History at UC Davis. He is the author of After Eunuchs: Science, Medicine, and the Transformation of Sex in Modern China (Columbia University Press, 2018). He is currently completing Transtopia in the Sinophone Pacific.