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Engendering China: Welcome

About the course

Course Description (as seen on the SSC):

WINTER TERM 2: Monday/Wednesday 3:00-4:30

Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Renren Yang

A survey into the role of sex, gender, and sexuality in the development of modern Chinese histories from the Late Qing Dynasty to the present day (~1850-onward). Examines the histories and developments of other countries including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Chinese-Canadian experiences. Topics include footbinding, women's rights, the role of women in the economy, masculinity, same-sex desire, HIV/AIDS, contraceptives, colonialism, Chinese diaspora, Queer theory in international relations, digital media, as well as activism and identity construction.

Open to all UBC students. No prerequisites. Must not have taken a Student Directed Seminar before.

Engendering China: About

Course Themes and Topics

What you will study and learn over the term


Sex, Gender, and Sexuality as a tool for Historiographic Analysis + Asia as Method

How can we use sex, gender, and sexuality as a way to understand history? How can we use sex, gender, and sexuality to write about history or critique it? This course hopes to enrich participants with the tools to consume history and analyze it with sex, gender, and sexuality in mind, as well as integrate it into the way we look at contemporary society.

Asia as Method, coined by social historian Kuan-hsing Chen seeks to decolonize and indigenize the way we understand Asia and the world by recentering our knowledge base in Asia. This course will challenge you to consider how Asia and its ideas, concepts, and history can be used to enrich our own lived experiences. 

History of Modern China

A broad overview of modern Chinese history with an emphasis on the changing performance of gender and the role sex and sexuality play in the everyday. Topics include:

  • Footbinding 

  • The role of women in society and domestic life

  • Chinese attitudes towards sex work

  • Same-sex relations

  • Masculinity and the male ideal

  • The capitalized woman in the Mao Era

  • Post-Mao women

  • Internalized Orientalism

  • Chinese Queer Theory as a way to understand China/Taiwan relations as well as Queer theory in International Relations.

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Beyond China

A snapshot of the development of sex, gender, and sexuality in places outside of Mainland China, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Canada. Topics include:

  • The popularization of Boys Love (BL) literature and film in Taiwan 

  • Politics of homosexuality in Singapore, historical and contemporary race preference, the legality of protest, and lesbian identities

  • Celebrity culture in Hong Kong

  • The role of Chinese women in sex work and emasculation of Chinese men in colonial Vancouver 

  • The role of video games in the perception of Chinese/Asian men and fetishization of Chinese women.

Research Capstone Project

The topic of sex, gender, and sexuality in Chinese histories is vast and cannot all be covered in one class. Built into this course is the opportunity for participants to do research on a topic that interests them. The capstone project can be done in many different ways including:

  • Podcast

  • Video Essay

  • Short film

  • Essay

  • Photo exhibit

Engendering China: Services


How many credits is this course?

This course is worth 3 academic credits.

You may count this course for credit in ASIA (General or China), IR (List C), ACAM (List B), or GRSJ programs. Please make sure to email your associated undergraduate advisor to make sure the credit is linked properly.

Do I need to have a background in Chinese History/Gender Analysis/or History in general to take this course?

No. A historical background would be an asset but is not required for this course. All events and topics will be prefaced in class or by the readings.

What will a typical day in class be like for this course?

A typical day in this class will involve student-led discussions that rotate to different participants every class. The student leading the discussion will be required to prepare some questions or remarks from the readings in order to get the conversation started. We will have some film viewings (with English subtitles) from different parts of the Chinese diaspora. There will also be guest speakers from UBC and the wider community invited to shine a light on lived experiences and their own research.

The course is blocked or full. What do I do?

Unfortunately, as a seminar course, there are only so many seats available. There is no waiting list for this course, so you will need to keep tabs on the SSC to see if there is an opening.

What is a Student Directed Seminar?

Student Directed Seminars (SDS) courses are courses designed by students for students. A coordinating student submits a proposal for a topic and course not currently offered at UBC and through a thorough approval process, is offered usually in Winter Term 2 of an academic year. There is a sponsoring instructor that oversees the course to ensure academic rigour is kept.

Engendering China: List

Interested in taking the course?

Questions, comments, and concerns can be directed to Aydin Quach at

Engendering China: Image
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