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Matthew Sommer

Matthew Sommer

Chair, Department of History
Professor of Chinese History
Field: 
East Asia
Ph.D., UCLA
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.

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