women’s studies

women’s studies
There are several trends in the contemporary cycle of women’s studies in China. One is associated with the All-China Women’s Federation (AGWF), a semi-governmental organization. In 1979, the first research office of the history of women’s movement was set up as an affiliate of the ACWF, and in 1984, the first conference on women’s issues in China was organized by ACWF. Later on, similar conferences would be held every two or three years. In 1994, the first women’s studies journal, Collection of Women’s Studies, was initiated by the Institute of Women’s Studies, affiliated with the ACWF. The theoretical orientation within this stand of women’s studies is Marxist, emphasizing the impact of economics on women’s liberation and status. The research focus is on ‘women’s work’, and tends to clarify and support government policy (Wang 2001). A second trend is derived from the university women scholars. Pioneering feminist scholars, such as Li Xiaojiang and a few others, are teaching in the university, and have been exposed to Western feminism. They started to review women’s status and women’s issues in the Chinese context from a feminist perspective, and have found the Marxist perspective to be inadequate in explaining and analysing women’s inequality with men in China, where more and more women have gained economic independence (Li 1989; Liu 1999). Gender analysis was introduced and applied in women’s studies from the mid 1990s, and women scholars have since published books and papers from a gender perspective (Tong 2000; Liu 2000; Wang 2001). Nonetheless, there are barriers to this trend. While many women’s research centres have been set up in universities, which serve as the base for these women scholars, women’s studies is still marginalized in universities, and there is no department of women’s studies nor any degree-granting programmes in women’s studies in any university except for the National Women’s University of China, which established the first department in China in 2001. Moreover, there is such a large gap between these few bastions of theoretical research and social reality that the research findings cannot yet serve as a basis for social change (Liu 1999). A third trend is also found in academia. Scholars who are interested in women’s issues have conducted empirical research on women. However, ‘women’ is only a variable in this research. It is a gender-blind research (Li 1998; Wang 2000), and women have been depicted as passive subjects, women’s rights have been violated in the research processes, and the findings are against women’s interests (Wang 2000). This has been criticized as a form of ‘patriarchal women’s studies’ (Wang 2000). To sum up, the development of women’s studies in China still has a long way to go, as it needs more space and resources to develop in the mainstream society. Also, there is an urgent need for university women to connect with social change and women’s movements.
Barlow, Tani (2001).
‘Spheres of Debt and Feminist Ghosts in Area Studies of Women in China’. Traces: A Multilingual Journal of Cultural Theory and Translation 1:195–226.
Li, Xiaojiang (1989). Women’s Way Out. Shenyang: Liaoning People’s Press.
——(1998). ‘Women and Gender Issues in Development Research’. Sociological Research 3.
Li, Xiaojiang and Zhang, Xiaodan (1995). ‘Creating a Space for Women: Women’s Studies in China’. In Anna Gerstlacher and Margit Miosga (eds), China for Women: Travel and Culture. New York: Feminist Press.
Liu, M. (1999). ‘Equality and Control: the Politics of Wife Abuse in Rural and Urban China’. PhD diss., University of Hong Kong.
——(2000). ‘Re-victimization: An Analysis of a Hotline Service for Battered Women in China’. Asian Journal of Women’s Studies 7.2.
Roberts, Rosemary (1999). ‘Women’s Studies in Literature and Feminist Literary Criticism in Contemporary China’. In Antonia Finnane and Ann McLaren (eds), Dress, Sex and Text in Chinese Culture, Clayton: Monash Asia Institute, 225–40.
Tong, X. (2000). ‘Production and Reproduction of Unequal Gender Relationships’. Sociological Research 1.
Wang, J.L. (2000). ‘Gendering the Society’. Unpublished research reports.
——(2001). ‘Women’s Studies within the Sociological Framework’. Zhejiang xuekan 2.
Wei, Guoying (ed.) (2000). Nuxing xue gailun [Overview of Women’s Studies] Beijing: Peking University Press.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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