The women who stayed behind
During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, more than twenty million Chinese left China and moved across the globe. To study this mass exodus, historians have tended to focus on the men who left, more often than the women who stayed behind, missing an opportunity to explore the gendered aspect of Chinese transnationalism. Drawing on her new book, Shelly Chan will discuss how the Chinese Communist party-state encountered rural South China in the 1950s, after a century of global migrations had thoroughly transformed local society. While officials had imagined feudal villages and backward women awaiting liberation in rural Guangdong, what they found instead were highly commercialized economies and women heads of household who both welcomed and resisted marriage reform. Chan argues that this complex encounter between the women who stayed behind and the Maoist state constituted a “diaspora moment,” during which the gender of migration impinged on the socialist construction of a single time and space. In a surprising series of setbacks and do-overs, women in transnational families were not liberated from a feudal past, but were made into new intermediaries for the reunion of diasporic men and the homeland-nation in a destined future.
Tuesday, February 12 at 4:00pm to 6:00pm