The Question of Women in Chinese Feminism

The Question of Women in Chinese Feminism

Next Wave: New Directions in Women's Studies

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Book Pages: 496 Illustrations: 4 illustrations, 4 tables Published: March 2004

Author: Tani Barlow

Asian Studies > East Asia, Cultural Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Feminist Theory

The Question of Women in Chinese Feminism is a history of thinking about the subject of women in twentieth-century China. Tani E. Barlow illustrates the theories and conceptual categories that Enlightenment Chinese intellectuals have developed to describe the collectivity of women. Demonstrating how generations of these theorists have engaged with international debates over eugenics, gender, sexuality, and the psyche, Barlow argues that as an Enlightenment project, feminist debate in China is at once Chinese and international. She reads social theory, psychoanalytic thought, literary criticism, ethics, and revolutionary political ideologies to illustrate the range and scope of Chinese feminist theory’s preoccupation with the problem of gender inequality. She reveals how, throughout the cataclysms of colonial modernity, revolutionary modernization, and market socialism, prominent Chinese feminists have gathered up the remainders of the past and formed them into social and ethical arguments, categories, and political positions, ceaselessly reshaping progressive Enlightenment sexual liberation theory.


“[Barlow] show[s] ‘in detail how the norm of women is imposed, escaped, superimposed, displaced, reimposed, or perhaps exhausted….’ She does so with a depth of theoretical consideration … that is unparalleled in writings on Chinese feminism.” — Nicola Spakowski , China Information

“[T]he book [will join] a group of works that constitute the most important writings on Chinese feminism in the English language.” — Carolyn Cartier , Women's Studies Quarterly

“Barlow’s The Question of Women in Chinese Feminism expands on her earlier work … to present a fully articulated account of how feminism, in China and internationally, arose from… eugenicist discourse on the nature of human life.” — Sasha Su-Ling Welland , Signs

“From time to time, a reviewer comes across a book that is not only a pleasure to read, but stimulates a renewed interest in a subject, a re-thinking of previously held opinions and which the writing inspires new faith in the fighting spirit of ordinary men and women. This is such a book.” — Bruce Mcfarlane , Journal of Contemporary Asia

"[A]n important study of Chinese feminism, very extraordinary in the China field. . . . [A] highly analytical and thought-provoking piece of academic writing. . . . Convincingly argued, coherently structured, and concretely footnoted, Barlow's The Question of Women in Chinese Feminism will be successful as a standard reference for many years to come. . . . The book will certainly spark vigorous controversies within the women's/feminist studies projects in future." — Yuen Ting Lee , Asian Journal of Women's Studies

"[An] important study. . . . Barlow's insightful and provocative book is sure to yield fruitful debate among scholars, contributing much to reading sex/gender, race, and feminism transnationally." — Megan M. Ferry, Modern Chinese Literature and Culture

"[C]ompelling. . . . The book reflects enormous learning and startlingly original analyses. . ." — Altar Magazine

"[T]his volume offers invaluable rich information and provokes new thinking about Chinese feminist thought."

— Yuk-Lin Renita Wong , China Review International

"[T]hought-provoking. . . . [G]iven the wealth of material that has been analyzed for this text and the many insights that are offered throughout, even those approaching it with some trepidation will be rewarded for their efforts." — Gary Sigley , The China Journal

"In The Question of Women in Chinese Feminism Barlow has presented a book of depth and challenging insights." — Louise Edwards , Asian Studies Review

"Tani E. Barlow's book . . . breaks original and exciting ground. . . . This is an important and intricately argued book that deserves close and repeated readings. . . . A text that will provoke controversy in the academy, it is a powerful model of how to 'blast away the shackles of the present' in reclaiming the past of woman in feminist scholarship." — Harriet Evans , American Historical Review

“Placing feminist thought within a continuum that defines human life in eugenic terms, Tani E. Barlow shows how Chinese feminism is not simply an inheritance of western ideas but is absolutely central to modernity and its emphasis on the sexed human being. The Question of Women in Chinese Feminism will spark controversy and will eventually stand as a model of scholarship for all of us to follow.”
  — Wendy Larson, author of Women and Writing in Modern China

“Tani E. Barlow breaks original ground. Her book has a theoretical reach and sophistication very rare in the China field, drawing its analytical tools from history, literature, feminist studies, psychoanalysis, and film criticism.” — Gail Hershatter, author of Dangerous Pleasures: Prostitution and Modernity in Twentieth-Century Shanghai

“The Question of Women in Chinese Feminism is an exciting and provocative journey through Chinese feminism and its theoretical permutations throughout the twentieth century.” — Lisa Rofel, author of Other Modernities: Gendered Yearnings in China after Socialism


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Tani E. Barlow is a historian of modern China teaching in the Women’s Studies Department at the University of Washington, Seattle. She is the editor of many books, including Formations of Colonial Modernity in East Asia and New Asian Marxisms, both published by Duke University Press. Barlow is the founding senior editor of positions: east asia cultures critique, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

1 History and Catachresis 15

2 Theorizing “Women” 37

3 Foundations of Progressive Chinese Feminism 64

4 Woman and Colonial Modernity in the Early Thought of Ding Ling 127

5 Women under Maoist Nationalism in the Thought of Ding Ling 190

6 Socialist Modernization and the Market Feminism of Li Xiaojiang 253

7 Dai Jinhua, Globalization, and 1990s Poststructuralist Feminism 302

Conclusion 355

Appendix to Chapter 1: Histtoriography and Catachresis 365

Notes 373

Works Cited 443

Index 471
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3270-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3281-7
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