Trans-Status Subjects

Gender in the Globalization of South and Southeast Asia

Trans-Status Subjects

Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: 1 table Published: November 2002

Asian Studies > South Asia, Globalization and Neoliberalism, Theory and Philosophy > Feminist Theory

A Thai foodseller on the streets of Bangkok, a cyclo driver in a Vietnamese village, a Pahari migrant laborer in the Himalayas, a Parsi-Christian professional social worker shuttling back and forth between London and Calcutta—Trans-Status Subjects examines how these and other South and Southeast Asians affect and are affected by globalization. While much work has focused on the changes wrought by globalization—describing how people maintain foundations or are permanently destabilized—this collection theorizes the complex ways individuals negotiate their identities and create alliances in the midst of both stability and instability, as what the editors call trans-status subjects. Using gender paradigms, historical time, and geographic space as driving analytic concerns, the essays gathered here consider the various ways South and Southeast Asians both perpetuate and resist various hierarchies despite unequal mobilities within economic, social, cultural, and political contexts.

The contributors—including literary and film theorists, geographers, historians, sociologists, and anthropologists—show how the dominant colonial powers prefigured the ideologies of gender and sexuality that neocolonial nation-states have later refigured; investigate economic and artistic production; and explore labor, capital, and social change. The essays cover a range of locales—including Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Borneo, Indonesia, and the United States. In investigating issues of power, mobility, memory, and solidarity in recent eras of globalization, the contributors—scholars and activists from South Asia, Southeast Asia, England, Australia, Canada, and the United States—illuminate various facets of the new concept of trans-status subjects.

Trans-Status Subjects carves out a new area of inquiry at the intersection of feminisim and critical geography, as well as globalization, postcolonial, and cultural studies.

Contributors. Anannya Bhattacharjee, Esha Niyogi De, Karen Gaul, Ketu Katrak, Karen Leonard, Philippa Levine, Kathryn McMahon, Andrew McRae, Susan Morgan, Nihal Perera, Sonita Sarker, Jael Silliman, Sylvia Tiwon, Gisele Yasmeen


Trans-Status Subjects not only presents a wide range of very original research, but it also provides a sophisticated framework of theoretical analysis. One of its many strengths, in fact, lies in its nuanced theorization of space, place, and time, calling for a more careful engagement with the methodical assumptions of both historical and geographic knowledge in studying the processes of globalization. . . . Trans-Status Subjects certainly makes a vital contribution to studies of South and Southeast Asia, bringing together a commendably complex intersection of interests and modes of analyses. It also signals an important intervention in globalization studies in general and will appeal, no doubt, to a cross-disciplinary audience of scholars engaging with how subjects and subject positions are fashioned and refashioned through the changing relations among labor, migration, citizenship, and nationalism, variously inflected as these categories are by the effects of a colonial and contemporary global context.” — Sukanya Banerjee , Journal of Asian Studies

"[A]n important contribution. . . . Trans-Status Subjects brings together a pertinent, timely, and intellectually provocative set of discussions. . . . [R]emarkable." — Srirupa Prasad , Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East

"[I]mpressive variety of contributions. . . . [T]he volume would be a useful addition to libraries on gender in contemporary South and Southeast Asia, as well as a rich resource for graduate teaching in both Asian Studies and Gender Studies." — Deirdre McKay, Sojourn

"[T]heoretically rich . . . . [T]hese essays raise provocative questions for educational and theoretical inquiry into dominant historical narratives and the relationships between place, identity and custom. This volume also offers us fresh ways to think about the historical production of gender, race and class ideologies and the role of nostalgia in defining place and subjectivity." — Clarissa Adamson , Anthropological Quarterly

"Any book bringing a sophisticated array of feminist, poststructuralist and post-colonial theoretical approaches to the intellectually conservative field of Southeast Asian Studies has to be seen as a welcome arrival. Sonita Sarker and Esha Niyogi De have done just this in a collection which employs the concept of 'trans-status subjectivity' to capture the diverse and contradictory experience of South and Southeast Asians in the face of globalization." — Ashley Carruthers, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

"The book covers an exceptional array of material. . . . Supported by rich ethnographic data, each essay is a fascinating read and is a good reminder of the complex diversity in conceptualizations of gender in globalizing South and Southeast Asia." — Amanda Cahill , Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology

“This collection brings together an astonishingly wide variety of original research about the problem of globalization and the relationship of gender, time, and space to it. Focusing on ‘embodied subjects’ in diverse locations and shifting grounds allows the authors to excavate conditions—cultural, political, socioeconomic—under which the people they are writing about become what the editors call ‘trans-status subjects.’” — Antoinette Burton, author of At the Heart of the Empire

“This valuable anthology gathers together feminist perspectives on gender, postcolonial critique, and critiques of Western modernity, and the considerable work on global capitalism and transnationalism. The work is theoretically sophisticated and ethnographically rich, intervening in the discussions of women, colonial and neocolonial modernity, and globalization with respect to South Asian and Southeast Asian women and locales.” — Lisa Lowe, author of Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sonita Sarker is Chair and Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Associate Professor of English at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Esha Niyogi De teaches English and Women’s Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Table of Contents Back to Top

Introduction: Marking Times and Territories / Sonita Sarker and Esha Niyogi De

I. Figuring Genders in the Colony and Nation: Native and Foreign

Designing Woman, Designing North Borneo / Susan Morgan

The Cordon Sanitaire: Mobility and Space in the Regulation of Colonial Prostitution / Philippa Levine

Feminizing the City: Gender and Space in Colonial Columbo / Nihal Perera

Failure of the Imaginary: Gendered Excess of the Indonesian Nation / Sylvia Tiwon

Gender, Paradoxical Space, and Critical Spectatorship in Vietnamese Film: The Works of Dang Nhat Minh / Kathryn McMahon

II. Transporting Genders Between the Village and City: Representations and Resistances

Traveling High and Low: Verticality, Social Position, and the Making of Pahari Genders / Karen K. Gaul

Nurturing, Gender Ideologies, and Bangkok’s Foodscape / Gisèle Yasmeen

Place and Displacement: Figuring the Thai Village in an Age of Rural Development / Andrew McRae

The City between the Global State: Architecture and the People in Singapore’s Gendered Imaginations / Esha Niyogi De

III. Gendering Local-Global Circuits: Labor, Capital, and Subjects of Social Change

South Asian Women in the Gulf: Families and Futures Reconfigured / Karen Leonard

Diasporic Alienness and Belonging: Selected Indian-American Cultural Expressions / Ketu H. Katrak

Jewish Diaspora through Colonial Spaces: Negotiating Identity and Forging Community / Jael Silliman

Unruly Subjects: Cornelia Sorabji and Ravinder Randhawa / Sonita Sarker

Immigrant Dreams and Nightmares: South Asian Domestic Workers in North America in a Time of Global Mobility / Anannya Bhattacharjee



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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2992-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2955-8
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