Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

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“Look How Many Gays There Are Here”: Digital Technologies and Non-Heterosexual Space in Haikou

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Abstract:  This article explores the capacities of digital technologies to disrupt, redefine and multiply urban spaces, creating new ways of seeing and experiencing cities. Based on ethnographic research into the lives of men who desire men in Haikou, People’s Republic of China, and their uses of the location-aware dating app Blued, I show how the city is produced anew as a space imagined and engaged in relation to the perceptible presence of other men who desire men. In a sociopolitical context in which non-heterosexual lives are largely invisible in public spaces, the digitally mediated visibility of Blued users to one another invites a range of social practices through which urban spaces, as well as spatial categories of ‘the urban’ and ‘the rural,’ are reproduced at the intersections of sexuality, space and digital technologies. With its empirical focus on an ‘ordinary’ city in a non-Western context, this article challenges both the Eurocentricity of much digital geographies research and its tendency to focus on global cities.

Keywords:  China; digital; gay; Haikou; Hainan; sexuality; space; technology



© James Cummings. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.