Xing- the Fraught Conjunction of Chinese Society and Queer Theories in the Translations of Li Yinhe

Junrui Lai, Victoria University of Wellington

Queer Theories were introduced to Chinese readers in 1990s. Li Yinhe, the first female sociologist of People's Republic of China (PRC) and a professor of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, did the pioneering work to introduce sex, gender and sexuality knowledge to Mainland China. Li introduced Queer Theories via her translations of essays by Gayle Rubin, Steven Epstein, Steven Seidman, and many others in 2003. When scrutinizing these essays translated by Li, I find that the word Xing in Chinese was used as an umbrella word to translate biological sex, sexual activity, and sexuality. This study will take examples from Li’s translations of Rubin (1984) and Epstein (1984) to show that sex and sexuality appear to be synonymous—both are Xing—in Li’s Chinese translations, while they are anything but in English. The purpose of discussing this problem is not to evaluate whether Li has translated well or poorly, but to delineate the way in which the Chinese (and I am taking Li as paradigmatic here, working with the language and attentive to her audience) received, accepted and interacted with Queer Theories. Li’s translation choices, driven, I believe, by the way in which sexuality is conceived in China both as a semantic issue and as an object of moral solicitude, reflect the fraught conjunction of Chinese society (and language) with the conceptions of sex, gender, and sexuality being elaborated in the West.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 201. Interpreations of Sex and Gender