Louisiana State University

Asian Studies Lecture: “Glands, insatiability, criminality, and desire: female “same-sex love” murder and culpability in 1930s China”

Glands, insanity, criminality, and desire: female “same-sex love” murder and culpability in 1930s China

April 5, 2019, @ 3:30-5:30 p.m. 145 Coates
Speaker: Peter Carroll (Associate Professor, Northwestern University)
Sponsored by:  Asian Studies and the Department of History 

In February 1932, Tao Sijin fatally stabbed her girlfriend and National Hangzhou Fine Arts Academy classmate, Liu Mengying. The murder and the women’s three-and-a-half-year-long romance were scrutinized in three subsequent trials, extensive media reports, works of fiction, cartoons, and autobiographical memoirs. The “Tao/Liu Affair” became the decade’s watchword for the noxious effects of same-sex love and the particular menace of lesbians, whose disregard for social conventions and the biological imperative to reproduce could undercut the nation’s very existence.  The “Affair” was popularly characterized as singularly shocking and perverse. Nonetheless, a few critical voices noted contrarily that its lingering notoriety and capacity to stoke anxiety lay in the burgeoning prevalence of the women’s “abnormality” and the potential vulnerability of all female students to same-sex love amid the widespread development of women’s education in Republican China (1912-1949).  This talk examines how commentators, drawing on European, Japanese, and Chinese sexology, and medical research, analyzed the origins of female same-sex love, its prevalence, and the danger it posed to the viability and eugenic improvement of the nation.

Friday, April 5, 2019 at 3:30pm to 5:30pm

Coates Hall, 145

Event Type

Lectures & Presentations

Target Audience

Students, Faculty, Staff





College of Humanities & Social Sciences, Department of History
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