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Denise Tang

Dr Denise Tang

Assistant Professor

+852 3917 5685

9.02, 9/F., The Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus


My research is firmly situated within sociology of sexualities in contemporary Chinese societies. I begin by studying the complex relationship between lesbian sexualities and variant social spaces in Chinese societies using contemporary social theories on sexuality and space. I see a need to understand the usefulness of Euro-American theories in addition to local knowledge of sexualities, in order to develop an inventive understanding of diverse sexualities with a Southern perspective. I received my PhD in applied social sciences from Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2008 with a specialization in sexuality and spaces. Prior to joining HKU, I taught at the Graduate Institute of Gender Studies, Shih Hsin University, Taiwan (2008-2011). As an activist scholar, I consistently draw upon my former professional experience as a program manager in North American social service organizations.

Research and Scholarship
Drawing from the first wave of studies on lesbian sexualities in a Euro-American context, my work develops along this foundation in three research directions: 1) Chinese lesbian identity, as in the relationship between identity and social spaces; 2) Queer media representation, as in the tension between Chinese media and queer representation; 3) Youth programs and service delivery, as in the connections between sexual identities and homophobia.

My first book, Conditional Spaces: Hong Kong Lesbian Desires and Everyday Life, is based on an ethnography of 30 life history interviews conducted with Hong Kong women with lesbian desires, including transgender lesbians. This is the first book-length sociological study focused on Chinese lesbian sexuality. The book has received extremely positive reviews in mainstream social sciences journal and described as ‘a groundbreaking and inspiring study of the social and spatial production of lesbian identity and same-sex relationships’ (The China Journal, Vol. 70, 2013: 236-237). Elisabeth L. Engebretsen continues, “This is original research, innovative thinking and engaging writing by an activist researcher keen to disseminate her work to a larger audience.” Howard Chiang, in a multi-disciplinary journal on the body Somatechnics, writes that my research “offers a rich goldmine of fascinating details about queer social fabrics and quotidian politics that both produce and are shaped by the rapidly evolving moral landscape of postmillennial China” (2014, Vol.4, No.1: 196-201). In the leading specialist journal (published by Duke University), GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, James Welker highlights the book’s significance in repositioning Asian queer studies, “Addressing this relationship between lesbian desire and space in the city from various angles…allows Tang to offer a rich, multifaceted understanding of lesbian life in late-capitalist, neoliberal Hong Kong” (2014, Vol. 20, No.1-2: 181-198).

Faced with increased visibility of Chinese lesbian and gay icons in the media, I began to develop my second research direction on queer media representations. The key publication that addresses this social phenomenon is titled ‘An Unruly Death: Queer Media in Hong Kong,’ GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies (2012 Volume 18, Number 4: 597-614). Furthermore, I have written on the use of social media and made an original contribution to the literature on new media in Asia. The first resulting publication, “Essential labels? Gender identity politics on Hong Kong lesbian mobile phone application Butterfly” is included in the definitive collection of essays on new media in Asia, edited by world leading scholars in the field of media and communication studies, Larissa Hjorth and Olivia Khoo.

I have collaborated with criminology colleagues in the Department (Maggy Lee and former colleague Alistair Fraser) to co-edit a special issue of Crime, Media, Culture. I have authored an article “Feeling Alive: Voices of incarcerated youth in We Are Alive” for this special issue. This groundbreaking article provides a close reading of an unconventional documentary film through queer theory and cultural studies in an inter-Asian context, therefore contributing to different fields including youth studies, cultural criminology and media sociology from a global south perspective.

The third research trajectory on youth programs and service delivery is a continuation of my earlier professional experience in North American social services. Here I critically apply a North American understanding of the concept of youth positive development and support to the case of youth service providers in Hong Kong. One journal article titled “Perspectives on same-sex sexualities and self-harm amongst service providers and teachers in Hong Kong” has been published with Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning. Another article titled “Out of Reach! Youth Work in a Changing Society: A Case Study of Hong Kong Youth Service Providers” will be published in Qualitative Social Work.

Future Research Projects
I embark on a new research path in migration developed from my previous research and teaching activities in Taiwan. I have secured funding from highly competitive international and local grants to conduct research in the following topics: 1) marriage equality (Sumitomo Foundation, 2016-17) 2) ageing and lesbian bodies (General Research Fund, 2016-19) 3) migration of Hongkongers to Taiwan (Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, 2016-18). Apart from the study on migration, the other two studies are collaborative research projects with co-investigators in Japan, Taiwan and Singapore. By exploring and comparing the connected histories in different Asian societies, I aim to provide a more nuanced understanding of identities and sexualities with an inter-Asian lens.

Teaching and Learning
At Shih Hsin University, I primarily taught graduate seminars on feminist theory, sexology and sexualities. Since joining HKU in 2011, I have taught the undergraduate foundation sociology course with large student enrollments (approximately 300), specialist sexuality courses for senior level undergraduates and broadening courses for undergraduates from all faculties. I will be teaching a graduate seminar as part of the Master of Social Sciences programme in Media, Culture & Creative Cities in 2016-17. I have been selected to participate in the Faculty’s off-campus experiential learning as the program director and coordinator of 3 Campus Comparative East Asian Studies Program 2014 and the Summer Institute 2015: Asia as Global Future. I am the recipient of the Social Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award (2015-2016).

I oversee the development of Sociology major in our Department as a member of the Teaching and Curriculum Committee and as the Undergraduate Program Coordinator for the Media and Cultural Studies (MCS) program. I am also on the Departmental Research Postgraduate Committee for overall postgraduate curriculum and admissions.

I initiated the Palgrave McMillan book series proposal, Gender, Sexualities and Culture in Asia, in collaboration with Olivia Khoo (Monash University) and Stevi Jackson (The University of York). I am the Treasurer for the Hong Kong Sociological Association and the Convenor of the 18th Annual Conference to be held on December 3, 2016 at the University of Hong Kong. I am also on the editorial board for Journal of Homosexuality and on the advisory editorial board for Queer Studies in Media & Popular Culture. I play a key role in the organizing of the longest running queer film festival in Asia. I served as Festival Director (2004 & 2005), Program Curator and Core Committee Member for the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (2011-2014). I have also been invited to be a Guest Program Curator for the Women Make Waves Film Festival (2014) in Taiwan.

Courses taught


The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

The University of British Columbia

The University of British Columbia

Research interests

Urban sociology
Cultural studies
Gender and sexualities
Media studies
Queer pedagogy

Current research

A Comparative Study of Marriage Equality in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan – Sumitomo Foundation Grant (2016-2017) (with Chen Yi-Chien, Shih Hsin University &  Diana Khor, Hosei University)

Hongkongers’ Taiwan Dream: Exploring Life Experiences of Hong Kong Immigrants Living in Taiwan (2016-2018) – Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange

Now We Hear Them: A qualitative study of older lesbians in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan – Hong Kong Research Grants Council, General Research Fund (2016-2019) (with Antonia Chao, Tung Hai University & Shawna Tang, University of Western Sydney).

Everyday Space and Memory at Wah Fu Estate: Recording and Envisioning the Daily Life of Public Estate Residents in Hong Kong (2016-2018) – Interdisciplinary Knowledge Exchange (KE) Project Fund, HKU (with Gary Wong, Vincci Mak and Natalia Echeverri)

Celebrity Culture and Civic Engagement. Funded by Small Project Funding, HKU.
Project Date: 30/06/2014 – 08/12/2015

Youth Suicidality and Female Sexuality: Perspectives of Service Providers in Hong Kong. Funded by HKU Seed Funding Programme for Basic Research for New Staff. Project date: 30/06/2012 – 29/12/2013

Selected publications

2017. “Out of Reach! Youth Work in a Changing Society: A Case Study of Hong Kong Youth Service Providers.” Qualitative Social Work (forthcoming)

2017. “All I get is an emoticon: Dating on lesbian mobile phone app Butterfly.” Media, Culture & Society (forthcoming)

2017. “Feeling Alive: Voices of incarcerated youth in We Are Alive.” Crime, Media & Culture (forthcoming)

2016. “Essential labels? Gender identity politics on Hong Kong lesbian mobile phone application Butterfly” In The Routledge Handbook of New Media in Asia, edited by L. Hjorth and O. Khoo. London and New York: Routledge.

2014. “Perspectives on same-sex sexualities and self-harm amongst service providers and teachers in Hong Kong.Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning 14(4): 444-456.

2014. “Lesbian Spaces in Hong Kong.” In The Routledge Handbook of Sexuality Studies in East Asia, edited by M. McLelland and V. Mackie. London and New York: Routledge.

2012. “An Unruly Death: Queer Media in Hong Kong“. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. 18(4): 597-614.

2012. “A Dialogue on Chinese Male Homosexualities“. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies. 13(4): 639-643.

2012. “Branding Satire, Being Alernative: Locating Queerness in the videos of Hong Kong Media Artist Yuen Pui-Man“. Berliner China-Hefte. 40: 111-126.

金曄路、鄧芝珊 (2012) 〈「現身」說教—反思香港、台灣及中國大陸的性∕別教學經驗〉《教育的性別視角-課堂與教學實證研究》, 編者: 蔡寶瓊、陳潔華。出版者: 城市大學。

2011. Conditional Spaces: Hong Kong Lesbian Desires and Everyday Life. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

鄧芝珊 (2011)〈「條件性空間」:香港女同志情慾、居住空間〉《置疑婚姻家庭連續體》,編者:丁乃非、劉人鵬。策劃出版: 清華大學亞太/文化研究室。出版者: 蜃樓股份有限公司。

2011. “Queering Asian Cultures.” Sociology Compass. 5(8): 688–695.

2010. “Tung Lo Wan: Lesbian Haven and Everyday Life.” In Yau Ching (ed.) As Normal as Possible: Negotiating Sexualities in HongKong and China. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, Pp.51-71.

鄧芝珊、彭心筠 (2010)〈觀看中的女孩:凝想周美玲《漂浪青春》中小女孩的婆主體性〉The Girl is Looking: Musings on a Young Girl’s Po Subjectivity in Zero Chou Mei-Ling’s Drifting Flowers《台灣女導演研究2000-2010: 她、劇情片、談話錄》, 編者: 陳明珠、黃勻祺,秀威公司。

2009. “Demand for Cultural Representation: Emerging Independent Film and Video on Lesbian Desires.” In Olivia Khoo and Sean A. Metzger (eds.) Futures of Chinese Cinema: Technologies and Temporalities inChinese Screen Cultures. Wilmington NC: Intellect Books, Pp.169-189.

鄧芝珊 (2009)〈不一樣的銅鑼灣〉《婦研縱橫》,第91期,台灣大學婦女研究室。

鄧芝珊 (2009)〈女同志的銅鑼灣〉《女流》,第49期,新婦女協進會。

2006. “The Research Pendulum: Multiple Roles and Responsibilities of a Researcher.Journal of Lesbian Studies, 10(3-4): 11-27.

2006. “Urban Intimacies in Yau Ching’s Ho Yuk: Let’s Love Hong Kong”. Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University.

See all publications in HKU Scholars Hub →