This essay resists a common scholarly tendency to treat “queer theory” and “Chinese political economy” as analytically separate issues by arguing that the emergence of new sexual positions and discourses has transnational and material origins. Long before the “linguistic” or “poststructuralist” turn, the historical transformation of the political signifier of “China” already provided an occasion for a critical theory of the subject for queer Chinese writers. Beginning with a close reading of Chen Ruoxi's Paper Marriage, one of the earliest full-length queer novels in Chinese, this essay argues against the Foucauldian hypothesis that homosexuality was a modern Western invention and therefore does not apply to the Chinese tongzhi. The question is not whether the incorporation of China into the purview of queer theory reinstates a colonizing epistemology. Rather, the question should be: what kind of critical inquiry is enabled when the category of the queer is expanded and revised by the particular?

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