Casey James Miller, Ph.D. Envelope
Assistant Professor of Anthropology

B.A. Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Magdalen College, University of Oxford, 2004
A.M. Regional Studies–East Asia, Harvard University, 2006
Ph.D. Anthropology, Brandeis University, 2013

Personal Website: 

Teaching Interests:
Anthropology is the study of the human experience in all its diversity. It plays a crucial role in the undergraduate liberal arts setting by empowering students to think more critically about themselves through learning about other cultures. To this end, I offer a range of introductory and advanced cultural anthropology courses on topics including gender and sexuality, queer anthropology, medicine and health, and Chinese culture and society.

As a teacher-scholar of cultural anthropology, my primary goal is to share the rewards and insights of the anthropological perspective with students from a wide range of backgrounds and interests, regardless of whether they go on to major or minor in anthropology. I also encourage students to develop their anthropological skills outside of the classroom by collecting their own original ethnographic data. For example, in my cultural anthropology course, I have students observe gift-giving or ritualistic behaviors and interview subjects concerning their family and kinship systems or beliefs about personhood and the body. Students then select some of the original data they have collected to analyze and present in an essay.

Because cultural anthropology is a discipline that has one foot each in the humanities and social sciences, I also incorporate a variety of interdisciplinary texts and perspectives in my teaching. For example, in my Queer China course, I have students read and write about a variety of fictional texts, including poetry, short stories, novels, autobiography, and films, alongside more traditional anthropological ethnographies.

Research, Scholarship or Creative/Artistic Interests:
My research to date has examined the intersections of gender, sexuality, health, and civil society in postsocialist urban China. My first book, Inside the Circle: Queer Culture and Activism in Northwest China, forthcoming from Rutgers University Press, is the first book to explore queer (tongzhi 同志) culture and activism in northwest China. Drawing on ethnographic data collected over a decade of fieldwork in urban northwest China from 2007–2019 involving over 70 people from local queer communities, civil society organizations, and government agencies, the book offers a novel, compelling, and intimately personal perspective on Chinese queer culture and activism.

Inside the Circle tells the stories of two courageous and dedicated groups of queer activists in the city of Xi’an: a grassroots gay men’s HIV/AIDS organization called Tong’ai and a lesbian women’s group named UNITE. Taking inspiration from “the circle” (quanzi 圈子), a term used to imagine local, national, and global queer communities, the book shows how everyday people in northwest China are taking part in queer culture and activism while also striving to lead traditionally moral lives in a rapidly changing society. The queer stories in this book broaden our understandings of gender and sexuality in contemporary China and show how taking global queer diversity seriously requires us to de-center Western cultural values, historical experiences, and theoretical perspectives. 

Before the Covid-19 pandemic I also began work on a new project focusing on PFLAG China (Zhongguo Tongxinglian Qinyouhui 中国同性恋亲友会), the largest Chinese queer NGO, which works to help more queer people in China live openly and also to encourage more Chinese parents and families to embrace and support their queer children. I am also involved in projects translating the work of queer Chinese fiction writers into English.

Selected Publications and Presentations:
Inside the Circle: Queer Culture and Activism in Northwest China, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, forthcoming. 

All Aboard: Truth, Responsibility and Coming Out on the PFLAG China Rainbow Cruise, Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, Honolulu, March 25, 2022 and American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Baltimore, November 19, 2021.

Liu Xiaobo vs. Mr. Gay World: Queer Activism and Ethnographic Coincidence in Northwest Postsocialist China, American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Vancouver, November 22, 2019.

We Are All Inside the Circle: Toward a Hybrid Chinese/Queer Theory, American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, San Jose, November 14, 2018.

Selfishness or Self-Sacrifice? Sham Marriages,” Queer Kinship, and Individualization in China, American Ethnological Society, Philadelphia, March 24, 2018.

Over the Rainbow: Queer Circulations, Meanings, and Uses of the Rainbow Flag in China, International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) and Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA), Ottawa, May 6, 2017.

Love Doesn’t Last a Lifetime: Love, Marriage, and Family among Queer Men in Postsocialist Urban China, Population Association of America, Chicago, April 27, 2017.

Miller, Casey James. Dying for Money: The Effects of Global Health Initiatives on NGOs Working with MSM and HIV/AIDS in Northwest China, Medical Anthropology Quarterly 30(3):414–430. (2016).

Miller, Casey James. We Can Only Be Healthy if We Love Ourselves: Queer AIDS NGOs, Kinship, and Alternative Families of Care in China, AIDS Care 28(sup4):51–60. (2016).

Queering Chinese Kinship Studies: Love, Marriage, and Family among Gay Men in Urban China, Population Studies & Training Center, Brown University, October 20, 2016.

There’s a Demon in My Heart: Neoliberalism, Global Health Initiatives, and Alienation within a Chinese Community-Based Gay Men’s Health Organization, American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Denver, November 22, 2015.

A View from Inside the Circle: Complicating Understandings of Contemporary China by Studying Queer Culture, Community, and Activism. Division of Social Sciences, Yale-NUS College, Singapore, January 12, 2015.

There Will Only Be Progress When There Is Competition: HIV/AIDS, Foreign Funding, and the Promotion of Precariousness among Chinese Gay Men’s Community Health Organizations, American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., December 6, 2014.