University of Sussex
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Queering kinship in urban China

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posted on 2023-06-10, 00:50 authored by Han Tao
This thesis focuses on queer intimate and familial life in urban Guangdong, China. By examining the dynamic understandings and practices of same-sex intimacies, a marriage of convenience (xinghun) between a gay man and a lesbian, and queer parenting, it unpacks the intricate link between cultural imaginations produced by globalised queer culture, social transformations in Chinese society, and personal choices in queer daily lives. My analysis is rooted in one year of ethnographic fieldwork, made up of participant observation and semi-structured interviews. This thesis employs ‘queer’ and ‘kinship’ as fluid and dynamic concepts and practices. The practices of queer intimacy, parenting, and family formation detailed in this research suggest innovative and diverse forms of belonging, family, and relatedness beyond blood ties and the heterosexual nuclear family; at the same time, class stratification and gender inequalities are often reproduced during the dynamic interplay of socio-economic class, state policies and moral discourse that come to articulate Chinese queer life-worlds. This ethnography further delineates how queer co-parenthood is constructed and strengthened through the language of bodily experience and affective recognition. Non-heterosexual people’s tactics of forming and sustaining mutuality in their loving relationships both reproduce and transgress assumptions about biological parenthood and its centrality in the Chinese kinship system. This thesis makes an original contribution to the studies of Chinese queer kinship in the context of our understanding of kinship and Chinese society in general. It investigates Chinese non-heterosexual people’s kinship practices with the purpose of furthering our understanding of sexualness, kinship, and social change in China. It also engages theoretically with discussions on queer utopia related to reproduction, modernity, risk, and care. In the context of socio-economic transformations and the technologization of biological reproduction, this thesis demonstrates how queer futurity and queer utopian imaginaries in urban China are made vivid and normalised by state-constructed modernity, dominant kinship norms, and glocal market actions.


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  • doctoral

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  • eng


University of Sussex

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