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David Kwok Kwan Tsoi

Sociocultural Anthropology

Research Interests

Governmentality and State Building; Transnationalism and Migration; Citizenship and Political Subjectivities; China's Modernity; The Political Economy of Sexuality; Intimacy, Labor, Desire; Queer Marxism; Sex Work and Sexual Politics; China; Hong Kong

Research Description

My previous work focuses on the intersection of sexualities, gender, and class in neoliberal economies. My ethnographic work investigates the labor conditions, moral systems, and modes of intimacy of middle-class queer sex workers in Hong Kong. My research has examined how sex workers produce their own value system of ethics vis-à-vis money, sex, and love; how a growing intimate economy built on desires changes what it means to be a respectable citizen; and how an emerging group of middle-class gay sex workers reproduce class and gender inequalities, in form of homonormativity and gay misogyny.

Extending my previous research, I am working on two projects focused on transnationalism, governmentality, citizenship, and the intimate life of citizens in Hong Kong and other diasporic Chinese communities. They address the following issues:

A) The emerging forms of collective sociality in post-2019 Hong Kong. This project studies the new models of value system generated in the aftermath of the 2019-2020 political contingency in Hong Kong. It examines how the notion of trust is reconfigured amidst authoritarian yet neoliberal governance, and how it circulates locally, as well as digitally and transnationally in the post-2019 emigration wave. Looking comparatively at the public sphere (workplace) and the intimate sphere (network of intimate relationships) of middle-class, university-educated, and highly mobile Hong Kongers in their late twenties and early thirties, I ask how intimacy, broadly conceived, serves as a social resource for ordinary people to (re)construct a shared civil identity under political oppression. 

B) Chinese migrants who emigrated to Peru in the 1990s. This project examines how various groups of southern Chinese immigrants in Lima, Peru, mobilize their local social ties, cultural capital (particularly cooking skills), and transnational kinship network to actualize their diasporic aspirations. I am interested in how various forms of Chineseness are divided along the lines of class, spatial divide, sociocultural integration with Peru, and connections with Chinese bureaucracy. This project investigates how the stories about cooking, traveling and education of ordinary Chinese people in Peru reflect China's geopolitical positioning in the global South. This project has been supported by Tinker Field Collaborative Fellowship.


MA, Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign

MPhil, Anthropology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

BA, First Class Honours, Anthropology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong



2024 Conference Grant, Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, Lund University

2023 Conference Grant, The European Association of Social Anthropologists, and The Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, U Manchester


2024 Nancy Abelmann Scholarship (Preliminary Fieldwork Grant), Dept. of Anthropology and Dept. of East Asian Languages and Cultures, UIUC

2024 Dissertation Travel Grant, Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies, UIUC

2023 Conference Travel Grant, Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies, UIUC

2023 Tinker Field Collaborative Fellowship, Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies, UIUC

2023 Global Intersections Grant, Center of Global Studies, UIUC

2023 Department Conference Grant, Dept. of Anthropology, UIUC

Awards and Honors

2024 Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Students (Spring 2024)

2024 Internship & Professional Development Award, Point Foundation

2023 Best Graduate Paper, Southwest Conference on Asian Studies, Association for Asian Studies

2023 BIPOC Scholar, Point Foundation (Fall and Spring)

2022 BIPOC Scholar, Point Foundation (Fall)

Highlighted Publications

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Tsoi, David Kwok Kwan. 2023. "Ethical intimacy: Relational work of male sex workers in Hong Kong." Sexualities, Online First.