The Gendered Body in the Qing Courtroom
“The Gendered Body in the Qing Courtroom,” Journal of the History of Sexuality, 22: 2 (2013) [Special Issue: Sexuality in Imperial China], pp. 281-311.
This article presents a variety of court cases, including homicides and marriage disputes, from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century China in which magistrates scrutinized bodies for evidence about gender performance. In order to judge these cases properly, magistrates needed to find out whether the persons under scrutiny were physically capable of normative gender roles or had violated the rules governing such roles; their judgments aimed to repair kinship networks and reinforce patriarchal hierarchies. These boundary-crossing “hard cases” help us understand the complex interweaving of bodily sex and social gender in the Qing: they provide insight into how magistrates (as well as midwives and others who gave evidence) would interpret the body in terms of what society demanded of it.