Generally speaking, my research interests lie in the intersection of sociocultural anthropology, gender & sexuality studies, STS (science & technology studies), Queer Theory (psychoanalysis in particular), and urban studies. Within anthropology, my intellectual inquiries cut across anthropology of sexuality and gender, medical anthropology, economic anthropology, psychological/psychoanalytic anthropology, urban anthropology, and East Asian anthropology (P.R.China particularly). Some of the broad theoretical questions I am interested include: How do humans relate to the self and to one another? What constitutes relatedness? How should we understand desire, love, and intimacy in specific cultural and historical contexts? How do money and/or technology influence exchange relations, erotics, aesthetics, and ethics?
Currently, I choose "sex(uality)" as the focal point, as it is one of the sites where various forces intersect. My tentative dissertation research is about men who sell sex to other men (M$M) in contemporary urban China. This project is based on previous fieldwork in Shanghai, China (abstract available in ACADEMIC WORKS section), where I observed the development of the market economy and cellphone apps transform traditional infrastructure of commercial sex. As a result, anyone with access to apps can, and many Chinese men do, engage in transactional sex, either to sell or to buy, easily, flexibly, and discretely. I argue that many M$M are not "sex workers" as traditionally understood, but individuals with diverse backgrounds who hook up and sell/buy sex through apps simultaneously. I content that money, pleasure, intimacy, and transaction are deeply entangled and cannot be separated.
I plan to explore the following questions for my dissertation research: How can we understand exchange relations in, and transactional aspects of, the social world differently, through technology-mediated male-male transactional sex? In other words, how can we "queer" exchange relations and transactions in the contemporary world? What constitutes pleasure/intimacy/love? And what are the relationships between pleasure/intimacy/love on the one hand, and money/transaction/market on the other? How does the "city" influence the sexual, economic, and intimate relations of the emergent world?
Additionally, I am interested in both the theoretical and applied aspects of public health. Specifically, I am concerned with HIV/AIDS transmission among gay men. How does biomedical advancements such as PrEP transform (or fail to) the field of HIV/AIDS research? How can the lived experiences of HIV-positive gay men inform our understandings of intimacy/desire/love (esp. in the case of "bug chasing"--the deliberate choice to engage in unprotected sex in order to be infected as well as the erotic feelings associated with it)? And how can we apply these understandings for HIV/AIDS interventions?
Additionally, some of the potential future projects include: the rising political awareness and engagements of the "Chinatown community"; African immigrants in south China as related to Han Chinese's understandings of the Self, China/Chinese-ness; queer fetishes such as "bug chasing," "male pregnancy" as well as behaviors such as "chemsex" and other drug-consumption in China and the U.S.
My research has received generous funding support from various institutions such as the Henry Luce Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Institute for Humane Studies & Liberty Fund, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Public Health at Brown University, the Department of Anthropology at Brown, and the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.