- Queer Politics and Sexual Modernity in Taiwan by Hans Tao-Ming Huang
In Queer Politics and Sexual Modernity in Taiwan, Hans Tao-Ming Huang provides the most detailed account to date of the history of homosexual oppression in relation to prostitution and state feminism in post-1949 Taiwan. As the first full-length study of this historical topic, it promises to break new grounds, shape future debates, and make its way to the required reading list for anyone interested in queer Asian studies, feminist studies, twentieth-century Taiwanese cultural history, and the history of sexuality. Drawing on a vast array of primary sources, ranging from newspaper clippings, mental hygiene publications, mainstream feminist texts, and the writings of tongzhi authors such as Guang Tai and Pai Hsien-yung (and their critics), this book changes the way we envision the place of Taiwan in queer studies and our methodological approach to bringing them together. Although the title of the book suggests a thematic focus on queer sexual politics, it is, in fact, targeted at a much wider audience. It revises, for example, conventional readings of the works of mainstream Taiwanese feminists, including Chang Hsiao-hung, Liu Yu-hsiu, and Hwang Shuling.
One of the most compelling points that Huang makes is that queer cultural production must be thoroughly situated in its proper genealogical context, and here, Huang brilliantly takes his cue from the work of Michel Foucault (along with Foucauldian scholars such as Arnold Davidson) on the history of sexuality. In his reading of Guang Tai’s The Man Who Escapes Marriage (1976), for instance, Huang frames the book as the direct product of the mental hygiene movement, which generated an unprecedented discourse of xing xinli (Huang’s translation of the English term “sexuality”) in 1950s Taiwan. The Chinese Mental Hygiene Association was founded in China in 1936, but was reestablished in Taiwan in 1955, reflecting the mass Chinese migration that accompanied the Nationalist regime’s retreat to the island. The psychologist Bao Jiacong, perhaps the most influential figure in the field of mental hygiene at the time, introduced a psychiatric style of reasoning about sexual perversion through the examples of masturbation, homosexuality, sexual deficiency, and other quirky sexual habits. Other mental hygiene experts quickly followed suit and were instrumental for translating and promoting a psychopathological understanding of same-sex desire first articulated by American psychoanalysts (most notably, Irving Beiber). Huang cites compelling evidence from Guang’s own writings to illustrate that the formulation of The Man Who Escapes Marriage “encapsulates the entire ethos of the mental hygiene movement” (p. 46). By cross-referencing literary and social sources, Huang executes a remarkable approach that places the production of fictional texts within the discursive realm of its genealogical context. [End Page 97]
An even more persuasive example comes from Huang’s thick analysis of Pai Hsien-yung’s Crystal Boys (1983), frequently heralded as the first full-length modern queer novel in Chinese. If Guang Tai’s The Man Who Escapes Marriage can be viewed as an early product of the apparatus of xing xinli, “the making of Crystal Boys as a homosexual sign witnesses the continual expansion of the apparatus and its regulatory regime” (p. 120). However, in order to fully appreciate the evolving signification of homosexuality through Crystal Boys in the 1980s and 1990s, Huang reaches back to the intertwined realm of homosexuality and prostitution over the course of the second half of the twentieth century and its lasting influence on policy reforms centered on the regulation of prostitution in Taiwan. In the two decades following the Nationalist Party’s defeat in the Civil War, press reports of male prostitution, especially in the Wanhua district or the New Park in Taipei, were never couched in a psychologized language—the kind that mental hygiene professionals used to develop the concept of sexuality (xing xinli). The psychologization of traditional notions of sexual deviancy (e.g., renyao, cut-sleeve pi, etc.) was consolidated only in the 1970s, when mental...