Casey J Miller
Assistant Professor, Anthropology
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 examines the intersections of gender, sexuality, health, and civil society in postsocialist urban China. My first book project, Inside the Circle: Queer Culture and Activism in Northwest China, is an ethnography of Chinese LGBT/Queer (tongzhi 同志) culture, health and community-based AIDS activism in China’s northwest region. Data for this project were collected over 18 months of fieldwork in urban northwest China from 2007–2019 involving over 70 people from local queer communities, civil society organizations and government agencies. This work was supported by a Fulbright fellowship and a grant from the National Science Foundation.
My research reveals how, despite the harm that it is causing, HIV/AIDS has also had positive effects on urban Chinese LGBT/Queer communities, serving as a rallying point for community organization, cultural production and queer kinship. My research shows that queer Chinese men are using their response to the AIDS epidemic to resist their exclusion from the institutions of family and state and to form new networks of kinship and care.
I am also working on two new projects. One examines “homo-wives” (tongqi 同妻), Chinese women who are married to closeted gay men and face challenges including unfulfilling marriages, domestic abuse and increased risk of exposure to HIV. My other new project focuses 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.