Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: Why Sex Mattered: Science and Visions of Transformation in Modern China
Authors: Chiang, Howard Hsueh Hao
Advisors: Elman, Benjamin
Creager, Angela
Contributors: History of Science Department
Keywords: Body
Subjects: History of science
Asian history
Gender studies
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Amidst the disintegration of the Qing Empire (1644-1911), men and women in China began to understand their differences in terms of modern scientific knowledge. Why Sex Mattered provides an explanation for the relatively recent emergence of a psycho-biological notion of sex in Chinese culture, focusing in particular on the ways in which the introduction of the Western biomedical sciences had transformed the normative meanings of gender, sexuality, and the body in the twentieth century. This dissertation revises the conventional view that China has "opened up" to the global circulation of sexual ideas and practices only after the economic reforms of the late 1970s. Drawing on scientific publications, medical journals, newspaper clippings, popular magazines, scholarly textbooks, fictional and periodical literatures, oral histories, and other primary sources, this study highlights the 1920s as an earlier, more pivotal turning point in the modern definitions of Chinese sexual identity and desire. The evolving discourse of same-sex desire and the biologization of gender norms constituted two epistemological ruptures that complicated the shifting correlations of sex, gender, and sexuality in the Republican period (1911-1949). The extensive media coverage of sex change in postwar Taiwan epitomized the geocultural legacy of these earlier developments. Weaving together intellectual developments with social, cultural, and political history, this dissertation aims to accomplish three goals: it argues for the centrality of sexual scientific knowledge in modern China's cultural formation; it highlights the role of the body as a catalyst in the mutual transformations of Chinese national modernity and the social significance of sex; and, grounded in the historical-epistemological analysis of the vocabulary and visual knowledge of sexual science, it establishes a genealogical relationship between the demise of eunuchism and the emergence of transsexuality in China. This genealogy, above all, maps the underexplored history of China's modern "geobody" onto the more focused history of the biomedicalized human body. The isochronal evolution of "China" and sex, two constructs that seemed the most immutable of all, evinced the gradual decentering of the familiar frame of colonial modernity with Sinophone articulations in the course of the twentieth century.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History of Science

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
Chiang_princeton_0181D_10235.pdf9 MBAdobe PDFView/Download

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.