Queer Marxism: Petrus Liu’s take on queer theory in China

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Petrus Liu, a professor and author in women and gender sexuality studies, presents to students on queer theory in China in the Rainbow Center on Tuesday afternoon. Liu discussed the themes of his book, “Queer Marxism in Two Chinas” and his personal experiences in the lecture (Maggie Chafouleas/The Daily Campus)

Parts of the United States are progressively taking action regarding LGBTQ+ awareness and acceptance, however this is not the case for the entire world. On Tuesday evening the Rainbow Center collaborated with the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute to welcome Professor Petrus Liu to have a discussion on Asian queer theory and his recently published book “Queer Marxism in Two Chinas.” He discussed his analysis and experience on what it is like living as a gay male in a group of societies that are still predominantly homophobic: Asia.  

Professor Liu works to deconstruct the inherent and assumed relationship between gender-based and class-based struggles. He positions “queer Marxism as a counter current to intellectual force to queer liberalism or heteronormativity.” When specifically looking at queer liberalism, Liu believes that the establishment of gay bars and events catered to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community does not necessarily indicate progress in that specific country. While there is a need to disassociate gay and stereotypes such as gay men regularly contracting HIV, at the same time society must still protect and embrace members who choose to partake in promiscuous activities. 

For example, Singapore, which is “identified as one of the most notorious homophobic countries in the world,” according to Liu, is also one of the biggest attractions for LGBTQ+ members in Asia. Pink Dot, Singapore’s version of gay pride, is held because of the theory that by attracting the LGBTQ+ community, then the creative industry in Singapore will continue to develop and prosper. Thus, major companies were influenced to invest and sponsor the event. While from an outside perspective this may be quite liberal, the intentions behind the festival do not align. In fact, Singapore still greatly restricts free speech, and even dictates a certain area in a park called “Speakers Corner” where people can go and discuss topics to only people who want to hear about them.  

There have been several incidents where these atrocities have been witnessed firsthand. Gin Gin Store, a gay bookstore in Taiwan, “was raided by the police for sales and possession of pornography, which was basically gay magazines that you can find on Amazon.” In fact, the owner of the bookstore argued the level of nudity in these magazines compared to those in heterosexual ones, which was precisely equal. Nevertheless, he was found guilty. Another case stemmed from a private party in a private residence that was tipped off by the paparazzi to the police. Even more horrible is the fact that attendees were forced to simulate sex in front of the media, which was then used as incriminating evidence. These are only two of thousands of cases that were corrupted and used to further diminish and oppress the LGBTQ+ community.  

Professor Liu received his BA, MA and Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley. He is an associate professor of Chinese & Comparative Studies at Boston University and previously taught at Cornell University and Yale-NUS College located in Singapore. In 2011 Liu published his first book, “Stateless Subjects: Chinese Martial Arts Literature and Postcolonial History,” and in 2015 published his second book, “Queer Marxism in Two Chinas.” He is the recipient of a Cornell Humanities Fellowship and a Telluride Faculty Scholarship, as well as several others.  


Jordana Castelli is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at jordana.castelli@uconn.edu.

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