After Eunuchs

Science, Medicine, and the Transformation of Sex in Modern China

Howard Chiang

Columbia University Press

After Eunuchs

Google Preview

Pub Date: August 2018

ISBN: 9780231185783

416 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $65.00£50.00

Pub Date: August 2018

ISBN: 9780231546331

416 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $64.99£50.00

After Eunuchs

Science, Medicine, and the Transformation of Sex in Modern China

Howard Chiang

Columbia University Press

For much of Chinese history, the eunuch stood out as an exceptional figure at the margins of gender categories. Amid the disintegration of the Qing Empire, men and women in China began to understand their differences in the language of modern science. In After Eunuchs, Howard Chiang traces the genealogy of sexual knowledge from the demise of eunuchism to the emergence of transsexuality, showing the centrality of new epistemic structures to the formation of Chinese modernity.

From anticastration discourses in the late Qing era to sex-reassignment surgeries in Taiwan in the 1950s and queer movements in the 1980s and 1990s, After Eunuchs explores the ways the introduction of Western biomedical sciences transformed normative meanings of gender, sexuality, and the body in China. Chiang investigates how competing definitions of sex circulated in science, medicine, vernacular culture, and the periodical press, bringing to light a rich and vibrant discourse of sex change in the first half of the twentieth century. He focuses on the stories of gender and sexual minorities as well as a large supporting cast of doctors, scientists, philosophers, educators, reformers, journalists, and tabloid writers, as they debated the questions of political sovereignty, national belonging, cultural authenticity, scientific modernity, human difference, and the power and authority of truths about sex. Theoretically sophisticated and far-reaching, After Eunuchs is an innovative contribution to the history and philosophy of science and queer and Sinophone studies.
After Eunuchs deftly explores how the introduction of Western biomedicine transformed understandings of gender, sexuality, and the body in Chinese contexts from the twentieth century onward. Using an impressive range of sources, Chiang rescues the history of castration—perhaps one of the most notorious culturally overdetermined corporeal subjects—from the legacy of prevailing nineteenth- and early twentieth-century narratives that characterize the practice almost exclusively as backward, traditional, and oppressive. Along the way, Chiang illuminates a host of other practices and corporeal formations by challenging the many essentialisms that still inform our assumptions about the wholeness of the human body. A rich and original work. Ari Heinrich, University of California, San Diego
An important study that is both long overdue and remarkably timely. Chiang draws a controversial line between imperial China’s eunuchs and modern Taiwan’s first transsexual surgery. Tracing this path takes us through twentieth-century regimes of visuality, the impact of biological and psychiatric reasoning, and the production of sexual pathologies. With its focus on “transformations of sex,” After Eunuchs will undoubtedly renew debate about the nature of Chinese modernity. Ruth Rogaski, Vanderbilt University
Howard Chiang’s After Eunuchs is a persuasive history of how, between 1870 and 1930, bio-scientization of sex was normalized in China. This strongly evidenced, briskly written, imaginative work takes a bold step into describing conditions for thinking about sexual and therefore gender difference. It appeals across the disciplines and enters into general debates about the science and history of sex difference, sexual desire, sex morphology, and queer theory. Tani Barlow, Rice University
Chiang’s After Eunuchs presents a fascinating genealogical dissection of the epistemology of gender mutability, intersexuality and transsexuality in modern Chinese history. LSE Review of Books
List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Toward a Genealogy of Sex
1. China Castrated
2. Vital Visions
3. Deciphering Desire
4. Mercurial Matter
5. Transsexual Taiwan
Conclusion: China Trans Formed
List of Abbreviations
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Long-listed, 2019 International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS), Humanities Book Prize

About the Author

Howard Chiang (P.h.D., Princeton University) is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Waterloo. His books include Perverse Taiwan (ed., Routledge, 2016), Psychiatry and Chinese History (ed., Routledge, 2014), and Transgender China (ed., Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). He has written articles for Cultural History, the Journal of Women's History, History of Science and others.