The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational Theory

The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational Theory

by Lydia H. Liu
     
 

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He-Yin Zhen (1886–1920) was a female theorist who played a central role in the birth of Chinese feminism. Editor of a prominent feminist-anarchist journal in the early twentieth century and exponent of a particularly incisive analysis of China and the world. Unlike her contemporaries, He-Yin Zhen was concerned less with China’s fate as a nation and more

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Overview

He-Yin Zhen (1886–1920) was a female theorist who played a central role in the birth of Chinese feminism. Editor of a prominent feminist-anarchist journal in the early twentieth century and exponent of a particularly incisive analysis of China and the world. Unlike her contemporaries, He-Yin Zhen was concerned less with China’s fate as a nation and more with the relationship among patriarchy, imperialism, capitalism, and gender subjugation as global and transhistorical problems. Her bold writings were considered radical and dangerous in her lifetime and gradually have been erased from the historical record. This volume, the first translation and study of He-Yin’s work in English or Chinese, is also a critical reconstruction of early twentieth-century Chinese feminist thought in a transnational context. The book repositions He-Yin Zhen as central to the development of feminism in China, juxtaposing her writing with fresh translations of works by two of her better-known male interlocutors.The editors begin with a detailed portrait of He-Yin Zhen’s life and an analysis of her thought in comparative terms. They then present annotated translations of six of her major essays, as well as two foundational tracts by her male contemporaries, Jin Tianhe (1873–1947) and Liang Qichao (1873–1929), to which He-Yin’s work responds and with which it engages. Jin Tianhe, a poet and educator, and Liang Qichao, a philosopher and journalist, understood feminism as a paternalistic cause that “enlightened” male intellectuals like themselves should defend. Zhen counters with an alternative conception of feminism that draws upon anarchism and other radical trends in thought. Ahead of her time within the context of both modernizing China and global feminism, He-Yin Zhen complicates traditional accounts of women and modern history, offering original perspectives on sex, gender, labor, and power that continue to be relevant to feminist theorists in China, Europe, and America.

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Editorial Reviews

MCLC

The Birth of Chinese Feminism: Essential Texts in Transnational Theory is less a broad collection of essays than it is a well-argued case for the transnational and radical origins of Chinese feminism.

Radical Philosophy

In resuscitating He-Yin Zhen's work, [the editors and translators] have produced a volume that challenges long-established views about the birth of Chinee feminism and repositions it as a pluralist and global event, the theoretical significance of which continues to resonate today.

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture

A terrific book

Midwest Book Review

A powerful discussion highly recommended for college-level Chinese culture and women's studies collections alike.

Books & Culture

An invaluable contribution to anyone interested in Chinese intellectual history or the history of feminism across nations and across time periods.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231533263
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
03/12/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
File size:
19 MB
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What People are saying about this

Gail Hershatter

This magnificent volume opens up a past and conjures a future. Anarcho-feminist He-Yin Zhen published her passionate and closely reasoned essays more than a century ago, yet the issues she raises have yet to be addressed adequately in China or anywhere else. The Birth of Chinese Feminism offers us the best of her writing and that of her feminist male contemporaries, with whom she did not always agree. The editors and translators have restored to visibility a world crackling with debate about equality, hierarchy, property, and justice. They challenge us to keep one appreciative eye on history and another on the conundrum of our own moment.

Amy Dooling

He-Yin Zhen was one of the most original--yet today least well-known--feminist theorists of the late Qing era. Her intellectual/political project, which she approached via a wide-ranging (and uncompromising) critique of patriarchy, capitalism, liberalism, and imperialism, was to link gendered forms of subjugation to global systems of power. The Birth of Chinese Feminism not only sheds light on the unique vision of a remarkable turn-of-the century radical thinker but also provides a fresh lens through which we can examine one of the most fascinating and complex junctures in modern Chinese history.

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