The Journal of Asian Studies

Research Article

Age as a Category of Gender Analysis: Servant Girls, Modern Girls, and Gender in Southeast Asia

Rachel Leow

Gail Hershatter's presidential address at the March 2012 Annual Conference of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) encouraged historians to regard gender as a tool with which one navigates a messy, fragmented historical terrain, rather than an enclosed house in which one can “sit back and enjoy the view from a single well-appointed location.” The paper that follows can be regarded as an enthusiastic endorsement. Gender history has made enormous inroads into mainstream academia; “gender is everywhere in the scholarship.” But, as Hershatter observes, “it is not the self-same thing wherever it is to be found.” Each of the stories she told illustrated a complex landscape of political change that was only partially visible or legible from inside the “house of gender,” hard-won though it has been. “Perhaps,” she commented wryly, “we need to get out of the house.” For Chinese historians, “disquiet in the house of gender” promises to be immensely productive, offering fresh views of the junctures in Chinese history in which large political projects affect changes in the smaller projects of everyday life, to arrive at an expanded notion of political change and a more complex understanding of what the revolution meant for Chinese women.

Rachel Leow (rleow@fas.harvard.edu) is Prize Fellow in Economics, Politics and History at Harvard University.

Metrics