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May 11 , 2010

Shanghai Lalas

Female Tongzhi Communities and Politics in Urban China


This is the first ethnographic study of lala (lesbian, bisexual, and transgender) communities and politics in China, focusing on the city of Shanghai. Based on several years of in-depth interviews, the volume concentrates on lalas' everyday struggle to reconcile same-sex desire with a dominant rhetoric of family harmony and compulsory marriage, all within a culture denying womens active and legitimate sexual agency. Lucetta Yip Lo Kam reads discourses on homophobia in China, including the rhetoric of "Chinese tolerance" and considers the heteronormative demands imposed on tongzhi subjects. She treats "the politics of public correctness" as a newly emerging tongzhi practice developed from the culturally specific, Chinese forms of regulation that inform tongzhi survival strategies and self-identification. Alternating between Kam's own queer biography and her extensive ethnographic findings, this text offers a contemporary portrait of female tongzhi communities and politics in urban China, making an invaluable contribution to global discussions and international debates on same-sex intimacies, homophobia, coming-out politics, and sexual governance.

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