Tony Jin ’22 Earns Recognition for Anthropology Research on Chinese Queer Activism

Tony Jin student award

Growing up queer in China, Tony Jin ’22 was fortunate there was growing awareness and more acceptance of his identity than in previous generations. But he says there is still much more work to be done. This laid the groundwork for an award-winning research paper from the Pomona College anthropology major.

Jin was recently awarded the Kenneth W. Payne Student Prize from the Association for Queer Anthropology for his paper titled “The Ambivalent State of Radical Queer Imaginaries: The Chinese State, Identity Politics, and the Queer Private Sphere.” The Payne Prize is granted to an undergraduate or graduate student for outstanding anthropological work on LGBTQ or gender topics.

“I have always been interested in queer and feminist movements in China and then I came here to study anthropology—I think it was the perfect chance for me to dive into this topic,” Jin says. “I am definitely really excited. It was also a little surprising because I really didn’t think I would be able to win this.”

Some of the classes he has taken at Pomona that have shaped his academic experience include Digital Media Ethnography, Anthropology of Environmental Justice, Cooperative Filmmaking for Social Change and Intersectional Feminist Theories.

“These classes have helped me better understand the intersection of different systems of oppression, and how systems of oppression transform themselves in different social contexts, often through a discourse of transnational, cosmopolitan modernity,” Jin says. “They have also helped me think about resistance as not along a single axis of progress, but as multifaceted on a global scale emphasizing agency instead of passivity,” Jin adds.

His anthropological studies include The Southern California Ethnographies of Science and Technology, a student-faculty collaboration to launch a virtual speakers series at the College to engage in dialogues related to science and technology. Pomona College Anthropology Professor Joanne Nucho oversaw the project and serves as Jin’s academic advisor.

“Tony is incredibly creative. He is just absolutely brilliant. And he is 100% committed to really thinking about how research and organizing can impact a broader social world,” Nucho says.

In addition to anthropology, Jin also majors in Romance languages and literatures. He cultivated his interest in languages from a young age, learning both Spanish and French in grade school.

When Jin is not in the classroom or working on academic projects, he enjoys dancing and mentoring other international Pomona students. 

He plans to continue exploring queer activism and acknowledges what he sees as the foundation of his intellectual inquiry of the movement.

“A lot of the political work that both me and Chinese queers are able to do comes from the efforts of a lot of Black activists, especially Black feminists and Indigenous people who are fighting against systems of oppression,” Jin says.