The Chinese encyclopedia and the living dead

A queer approach to categorization and taxonomy in comparative studies


  • Mattia Petricola



comparative literature, Nonce taxonomy, Eve Sedgwick, prototype theory, living dead


This article presents a case study in queer hermeneutics dealing with the construction of a corpus in a comparative study. More specifically, I propose to queer the category ‘living dead’ by restructuring its internal taxonomy. This will be achieved through the intersection of two approaches to categorization, both developed in the field of cognitive sciences as elaborations of Wittgenstein’s notion of ‘family resemblance’: Eleanor Rosch’s prototype theory and George Lakoff’s discussion of classification strategies in the Dyirbal language. I will then analyse the epistemological implications that derive from restructuring the taxonomy of the living dead in the light of the notion of ‘nonce taxonomy’, described by Eve Sedgwick in Epistemology of the Closet. My aim will be to show, firstly, that Rosch and Lakoff could provide nonce taxonomy with the theoretical support it needs; and secondly, how the field of comparative literature could be queered through the systematic use of prototype-based and nonce-taxonomic categorization.

Additional Files



How to Cite

Petricola, M. (2018). The Chinese encyclopedia and the living dead: A queer approach to categorization and taxonomy in comparative studies. Whatever. A Transdisciplinary Journal of Queer Theories and Studies, 1(1), 75–91.