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Palgrave Macmillan

The Everyday Lives of Gay Men in Hainan

Sociality, Space and Time

  • Book
  • © 2022


  • Presents the first book-length ethnographic study of gay men’s experience in Hainan
  • Explores the lives of non-heterosexual people in smaller cities and rural areas in China
  • Interweaves theory and analysis with data from interviews and ethnographic vignettes

Part of the book series: Genders and Sexualities in the Social Sciences (GSSS)

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About this book

“This book explores the everyday lives of gay men in Hainan, an island province of the People’s Republic of China. Taking an ethnographic and phenomenological approach, it asks how these men construct and experience ways of ‘sexual being’ – as gayhomosexualtongzhi and/or in the scene – and what these mean for the ways of living they see as possible within a socio-cultural, political and material context characterised by pervasive heteronormativity. It explores what it means for gay men in Hainan to ‘come into the scene’, how internet and mobile technologies figure in their everyday processes of sexual categorisation and how these men negotiate orientations and disorientations towards the future in relation to dominant heterosexual life scripts of marriage and reproduction. This book offers vital insights into the production and restriction of non-heterosexual lives in diverse settings, while addressing universal questions of how certain ways of living are enabled and curtailed in living together with others through powerful conditions of uncertainty and precarity. 

This book will be of interest to scholars in LGBTQ studies, particularly those with a focus on same-sex intimacies and identities in China.”

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Table of contents (6 chapters)


“With its rich ethnography and nuanced analysis, Cummings’ book vividly documents the everyday lives and self-understanding of gay men in Hainan. Not only is it a timely intervention into the metrocentric focus of LGBTQ studies in mainland China, but also a further reminder of the importance of immediate, interactional and spatial contexts within which being non-heterosexual becomes possible.”

Wei Wei, Professor of Sociology, East China Normal University, China

“This is a welcome addition to the literature on queer lives in China. Where most prior research has focused on the major cities of Eastern China, this study takes us to a quite different location: the island of Hainan. It offers a sensitive and often moving account ofthe everyday pleasures and challenges of finding spaces of belonging and negotiating the constraints of a highly heteronormative social environment.”

Stevi Jackson, Professor of Women’s Studies, University of York, UK

Authors and Affiliations

  • Department of Sociology, University of York, York, UK

    James Cummings

About the author

James Cummings is a Lecturer in Sociology in the Department of Sociology at the University of York, UK. 

Bibliographic Information

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