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Women in China’s Long Twentieth Century

Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 170
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  • Book Info
    Women in China’s Long Twentieth Century
    Book Description:

    This indispensable guide for students of both Chinese and women’s history synthesizes recent research on women in twentieth-century China. Written by a leading historian of China, it surveys more than 650 scholarly works, discussing Chinese women in the context of marriage, family, sexuality, labor, and national modernity. In the process, Hershatter offers keen analytic insights and judgments about the works themselves and the evolution of related academic fields. The result is both a practical bibliographic tool and a thoughtful reflection on how we approach the past.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91612-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    The study of women in twentieth-century China has expanded so quickly since the mid-1980s that a state-of-the-field survey becomes outdated in the time it takes to assemble and write one. This burgeoning area of inquiry draws its inspiration and approaches from many sources outside “the China field,” a realm no longer hermetically sealed within exclusive logics of sinology or area studies. Research about Chinese women has been enriched by the growth of women’s studies abroad and in China; by debates about gender as a category of analysis and its uneasy relationship to sex and sexuality; by conversations inside established scholarly...

  4. 1. Marriage, Family, Sexuality, and Gender Difference
    (pp. 7-50)

    China has long been portrayed by Chinese and foreigners both as the home of a thoroughly entrenched patriarchal family system and as a place where the 1949 revolution and the post-Mao reforms massively rearranged marriage, family, and affective life. The scholarship reviewed here introduces nuance and local variation into this picture, and redraws some sections of it altogether. Patriarchy and gender hierarchy (the term favored in scholarly discussion more recently) are locally variable, mediated by other sorts of ties, and at the same time extremely adaptable to the successive environments of revolution and reform, flourishing in new venues even as...

  5. 2. Labor
    (pp. 51-78)

    As an ensemble, the scholarship on women and labor in twentieth-century China follows a familiar trajectory of feminist scholarship. It begins by establishing that “women were there, too,” working in factories, fields, and homes and contributing to household income and working-class formation. It proceeds to an examination of how the presence of women changes the overall historical narrative, establishing key moments when women’s mobilization shaped the outcome of revolutionary organizing or state initiatives. Finally, it attends to the ways in which the categories “women” and “gender” themselves have been produced under specific historical circumstances, and how they in turn have...

  6. 3. National Modernity
    (pp. 79-106)

    Twentieth-century Chinese intellectuals and revolutionaries, and China scholars after them, have had a longstanding preoccupation with the failed Chinese state prior to 1949 and hence the need for revolution, and the expansive revolutionary state after 1949 and its degree of success. Women’s status emerged early on in this analysis as a key symptom of a weak state and a key sign of a strong one. In twentieth-century China, women were figures through which national modernity was imagined, often articulated through a language of crisis: if the status of women is not raised, if the factors that drive women into prostitution...

  7. Afterthoughts
    (pp. 107-118)

    This epilogue offers suggestions about the study of women in recent Chinese history, made in a spirit of creeping discomfort. The project of “engendering China” has entailed enormous excitement and inspiration for several generations of scholars, of whom I am certainly one. Gender has pried open earlier historical conventions and narratives, disrupted them, troubled them, made visible some of the integuments that enclosed a discursive world in which “human” generally meant unmarked male. Making gender visible and audible cannot be considered a finished project. I nevertheless want to caution against the impulse to define a field, assess its state, map...

  8. Works Cited
    (pp. 119-156)
  9. Index
    (pp. 157-162)