Society for East Asian Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
This paper traces the cultivation of the homosexual personhood through two activist campaign’s evocation of scientific objectivity and human rights in postsocialist China. Aizhi (爱知) action aims to depathologize homosexuality as a psychiatric illness by translating and distributing WHO’s International Classification of Disease and framing the psychiatric normalcy of homosexuality as an internationally-sanctioned scientific “fact”. A project of scaling down, activists leveraged political efficacy from scientific internationalism to fashion a normalized psychosexual identification. Lianren (恋人) action, is a performance art protesting against conversion therapy “curing” homosexuality. Artists launched a mobile protest by printing slogans on three moving trucks. It was turned into an online extravaganza on Weibo and intertextually linked with the Hollywood blockbuster by Western media. As a project of scaling up, the activists created an international media spectacle, fashioning the “fiction” of authoritarian repression of rights-bearing homosexual individuals.
I build my analysis on cultural and linguistic anthropological scholarship on scale and scale-making. By juxtaposing two activisms over a span of 20 years, I reveal the shift in domestic political strategies (mobilizing science to rights) and linguistic registers (facts to fictions) rendering the issue of homosexuality legible and recognizable. which could be traced from ascendence of human rights discourse in international governance. The changing international political opportunity, with the ascendence of human rights discourses, also influenced different modes of political consciousness and the framing of homosexual personhoods (psychosexual identification to rights-bearing individual).