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Matthew Sommer

Matthew Sommer

Chair, Department of History
Professor of Chinese History
East Asia
M.A., University of Washington
B.A., Swarthmore College

My research focuses on sexuality, gender relations, chosen kinship, and law during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) and the main sources for my work are legal cases from central and local archives in China.  The main local archives I have used happen to be located in Sichuan, which is my favorite part of China (the photo shows me eating Yibin-style “flaming noodles” at a restaurant in Chengdu).  I also like to use popular fiction and other non-legal sources for historical research. 

My first book, SEX, LAW, AND SOCIETY IN LATE IMPERIAL CHINA, is primarily a legal history, but more recent projects use legal cases to explore social historical topics as well.  My second book, POLYANDRY AND WIFE-SELLING IN QING DYNASTY CHINA: SURVIVAL STRATEGIES AND JUDICIAL INTERVENTIONS, was published in September 2015.  I am now completing my third book, which analyzes male same-sex relations and masculinity in eighteenth-century China on the basis of some 1700 relevant cases.  Long-term plans include a fourth book, about criminal procedure in the Qing dynasty.

Selected Journals & Book Chapters

Matthew Sommer
“Making Sex Work: Polyandry as a Survival Strategy in Qing Dynasty China,” in Bryna Goodman and Wendy Larson, eds., 2005: Gender in Motion:...
Matthew Sommer
“Dangerous Males, Vulnerable Males, and Polluted Males: The Regulation of Masculinity in Qing Dynasty Law,” in Susan Brownell and Jeffrey Wasserstrom...
Matthew Sommer
“晩期帝制中国法における売春――十八世紀における身分パフォーマンスからの離脱” (Prostitution in Late Imperial Chinese Law: The Eighteenth-Century Shift Away from Status Performance, trans...
Matthew Sommer
“The Penetrated Male in Late Imperial China: Judicial Constructions and Social Stigma,” Modern China, April 1997 (23: 2), pp. 140-180.
Matthew Sommer
“The Uses of Chastity: Sex, Law, and the Property of Widows in Qing China,” Late Imperial China, December 1996 (17: 2), pp. 77-130.