Queering Marxism?

Petrus Liu’s latest book represents an admirable and ambitious attempt to center the marginal in discussions of China by focusing not only on the Mainland metropoles, as so much popular analysis does, but also on Taiwan’s often neglected role in debates over Chinese culture, politics, and identity. Liu does so by putting the “two Chinas’” geopolitical relationship at the heart of an attempt to reconcile—or suggest the inherent compatibility of—queer theory and Marxism. This approach distinguishes the work from related monographs, like Tze-lan Sang’s exploration of emerging lesbian identity under Mainland China and Taiwan’s “translated modernities” (a term she borrows from Lydia Liu), that veer between the historical-contextual and literary-textual. Liu weaves in and out of discussions of theory, background, and literature in a more haphazard way (and, unfortunately, with denser prose), but his basic point is clear: Contrary to those who proclaim that queer people’s well-being and safety requires the liberal state and its protections, and thus also the transcending of Marxian ideologies and politics, Liu notes how cross-strait engagement with both orthodox and heterodox Marxisms has helped Chinese and Taiwanese queer activists develop important theoretical and political tools for resisting oppression. As a result, transnational Chinese queer activists would be well served if they heeded and drew from this supposedly forgotten legacy of “queer Marxism.”

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