Casey James Miller

Assistant Professor, Anthropology
Sociology & Anthropology
2230 Chew Street (Sociology/Anthropology)

[email protected]

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  • Ph.D., Brandeis University
  • M.A., Harvard University
  • B.A., Magdalen College, University of Oxford

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.

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