Queer Chimerica

A Speculative Auto/Ethnography of the Cool Child

Subjects: Asian Studies, China, Sexuality Studies, Gender Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies
Open Access : 9780472904648, 274 pages, 10 illustrations, 6 x 9, September 2024
Paperback : 9780472057009, 274 pages, 10 illustrations, 6 x 9, September 2024
Hardcover : 9780472077007, 274 pages, 10 illustrations, 6 x 9, September 2024
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Examining the intersections of queer theory and the rise of China to reveal how queerness is “produced”


Blending archival work, ethnography, and cultural analysis with memoir, graphic arts, and science fiction, Queer Chimerica unpacks the ways in which the transnational circulation of queer culture, politics, and institutions are structured through the antagonist interdependence of China and the United States. By examining the intersecting timelines of the rise of queer theory and the rise of China in the late Cold War era, Shana Ye explores the relationship between the discourse of queer fluidity and capital’s demands for labor flexibility. 
Drawing on rare archival material and oral historical accounts of queer life from the 1950s to the late 2010s, the author shows how these accounts make sense of the variegated landscapes of desires, transformations, and conundrums in postsocialist China. The author illustrates party cadres in the Cultural Revolution, tongzhi activism mediated by the explosive politics of Tiananmen upheaval, HIV/AIDS community outreach workers, feminist artists and digital activists, leftist queer theorists, and fictional bio-engineers, layering these vivid depictions to reveal the poetic messiness of queer world-making. Queer Chimerica offers insight into the governmentality of LGBT rights, the rules of legibility and recognition, the geo- and bio-politics of identity, and the class-ridden appropriation of queer history and community. Thus understanding the production of queerness unveils the uneven distributions of capital, knowledge, affect, and opportunity that reproduce queer precarity and agency.  

Shana Leodar Ye is Assistant Professor of Historical and Cultural Studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto.

"The form of the book is bold and may inspire others to write on queer identity in a more fluid form. The connections between China, the U.S., and queerness will make a valuable contribution to global queer studies."

- Olivia Khoo, Monash University

"The book’s originality of form is a great strength. It makes the material digestible, highly readable, and links it in a visceral way to critical theory that can so often be disembodied."

- Ari Heinrich, the Australian National University

Queer Chimerica is a highly original inquiry into the intersections of queer theory and practice with neoliberal capitalism and postsocialism. Ye challenges the celebration of queer identities as fluid and antinormative, arguing that queerness in China is predicated on China as the symbolic other of the West, and that respectability politics among LGBT people supports the increasing economic exploitation in postsocialist China. One of the many original insights of Queer Chimerica is Ye’s attention to a ‘politics of living’ over a politics of visibility. A politics of living reveals the unsettled nature of queer lives that challenges teleologies of oppression and liberation. Queer Chimerica takes ethnography into the future by combining autoethnography with science fabulation to simultaneously confirm and disrupt the logic of capital and its force in shaping sexuality, injury and desire. A must read for all who care about a truly liberating future.” 

- Lisa Rofel, University of California, Santa Cruz

“A tour de force of critical analysis and critical fabulation, Queer Chimerica speculates on the future of queer studies, identity, and identity politics in the age of U.S. and Chinese empires, and democratic and authoritarian neoliberalisms.”

- David L. Eng, University of Pennsylvania