Project leader: Derek Hird

Project aims

This project seeks to analyse everyday notions and practices of Chinese men and masculinities in contemporary China and beyond. It brings together humanities and social sciences methodologies and conceptual frameworks to examine Chinese masculinities in innovative ways, and aims to make new theoretical contributions to the field of men and masculinities that go beyond dominant Anglo-American models of masculinity.

Research context

China’s rapid socio-economic changes during the era of ‘reform and opening up’ (gaige kaifang), initiated by Deng Xiaoping in 1978, have significantly transformed and multiplied the possible ways of ‘being a man’ in China. Yet modes of masculinities dating from the imperial, republican and high socialist periods continue to inform the ways in which contemporary Chinese men make sense of themselves. As Chinese men increasingly engage with the world beyond Chinese borders, this project engenders China’s ‘rise’ in global and historical contexts.

Project activities

Workshop on ‘Changing Subjects: Male Sexualities and Masculinities in Asia’, November 2010, University of Westminster, UK Organised by Derek Hird. Consultancy by Derek Hird on ‘Masculinities in China’ for Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, October, 2011, Shanghai and Beijing, China.

Project outputs

With Song Geng. Men and Masculinities in China (Leiden: Brill, 2013). In Men and Masculinities in Contemporary China, Geng Song and Derek Hird offer an account of Chinese masculinities in media discourse and everyday life, covering masculinities on television, in lifestyle magazines, in cyberspace, at work, at leisure, and at home. No other work covers the forms and practices of men and masculinities in contemporary China so comprehensively. Through carefully exploring the global, regional and local influences on men and representations of men in postmillennial China, Song and Hird show that Chinese masculinity is anything but monolithic. They reveal a complex, shifting plurality of men and masculinities - from stay-at-home internet geeks to karaoke-singing, relationship-building businessmen - which contest and consolidate “conventional” notions of masculinity in multiple way. Purchase Men and Masculinities in Contemporary China from Amazon.

‘The Paradox of Pluralisation: Masculinities, Androgyny and Male Anxiety in Contemporary China’. In P. Aggleton, P. Boyce, H. L. Moore and R. Parker, eds., Understanding Global Sexualities: New Frontiers, 49-65 (London: Routledge, 2012)

‘The Sexual Ambiguities of White-Collar Masculinity’. In S. Pan and Y. Huang, eds. Sexuality Research in China No. 30 (3/2009), 107-120 (Kaohsiung: Wan you chubanshe, 2009).


Travel and maintenance grants from the British Academy, the Universities’ China Committee in London and HEFCE’s HEIF scheme have helped fund this project.