Xiaodan Zhang
Barnard College
Fall 2004

Gender structures the situation of women and men in all societies, yet varies in shape and dynamics. The study of gender in contemporary East Asia provides us a unique opportunity to explore how different social contexts engender different articulation of gender and how feminism comes to be conceptualized in relations to gendered effects of political, economic and cultural changes. In this course, we will examine these gender issues from a comparative perspective that goes beyond dichotomies of East and West. We will discuss women’s relationship to the state, politics, economy, and local and global processes of cultural production. Our goal is not only to gain insights to women and gender relations in East Asia but also to extend our understanding of the dynamics of gender in the contemporary world.


Yuko Ogasawara (1998). Office Ladies and Salaried Men: Power, Gender and Work in Japanese Society. CA: University of California Press.

Mayfair Mei-hui Yang (1999). Spaces of Their Own. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Laura Nelson (2000). Measured Excess: Status, Gender, and Consumer Nationalism in South Korea. New York: Columbia University Press.

Lisa Rofel (1999). Other Modernities: Gendered Yearning in China After Socialism. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Robin M. LeBlanc (1999). Bicycle Citizens: The Political World of the Japanese Housewife. Berkeley: University of California Press.

A course reading pack

The books are available in Labyrinth Books. Please purchase the course pack at Broadway Copy Center: 3062 Broadway (at 121 st Street). Tel: 212-864-6501. All the reading materials are also on reserve in Barnard Library.

  1. Attendance and class participation (15%)
  2. Weekly web-memo addressing assigned readings (15%)
  3. Take-home mid-term exam. Essay topics for the exam will be distributed in class two weeks prior to the due date. In the essays, you will be asked to address the assigned topic based on required readings and class discussion. Essays should be no longer than 8 pages. (20%)
  4. In-class cumulative final exam (25%)
  5. Final paper: you have an option of either (a) writing a research paper of 10-12 pages on an approved topic or (b) writing an analytical paper of the same length on a problem considered during the semester. You should consult with the instructor about the topic of your final paper and, if writing a research paper, please submit a one-page proposal with a bibliography. (25%)

( Readings marked with an asterisk are in the course pack)

Section I: Feminist Perspectives on East Asia

Week 1

Sept. 7 Introduction

Sept. 9 Feminism, East and West

*Chandra Talpede Mohanty (2003). “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourse,” pp.17-42 in Feminism Without Borders.

*Esther Ngan-ling Chow (2002). “Globalization, East Asian Development and Gender: A Historical Overview,” pp.9-24; “Studying Development with Gender Perspectives: from Mainstream Theories to Alternative Frameworks,” pp.25-57 in Transforming Gender and Development in East Asia.

Week 2

Sept. 14 Confucianism and women (Guest Speaker)

Sept. 16 Feminism in Japan

*Chiyo Saito (1997). “What is Japanese Feminism?” pp.257-270 in Sandra Buckley (ed.) Broken Silence: Voices of Japanese Feminism.

*Chizuko Ueno (1997). “Are the Japanese Feminine? Some Problems of Japanese Feminism in Its Cultural Context,” pp.293-301 in Sandra Buckley (ed.)

*Sandra Buckley (1994) “A Short History of the Feminist Movement in Japan,” pp.150-186 in Joyce Gelb and Marian Lief Palley (eds.) Women of Japan and Korea.

Week 3

Sept. 21 Democracy and women’s movements in South Korea

*Miriam Ching Yoon Louie (1995). “Minjung Feminism: Korean Women’s Movement for Gender and Class Liberation,” pp.417-430 in Women’s Studies International Forum 18 (4).

*Bang-Soon L. Yoon (2001). “Democratization and Gender Politics in South Korea,” pp. 171-194 in Rita Mae Kelly (ed.): Gender, Globalization and Democratization.

Sept. 23 Feminism and socialism

Mayfair Mei-hui Yang (1999). “From Gender Erasure to Gender Difference: State Feminism, Consumer Sexuality, and Women’s Public Sphere in China,” pp. 35-67 in Mayfair Mei-hui Yang (ed.): Space of Their Own.

Li Xiaojiang (1999). “With What Discourse Do We Reflect on Chinese Women? Thoughts on Transnational Feminism in China,” pp. 261-277 in Mayfair Mei-hui Yang (ed.)

Section II: Women and the Economy

Week 4

Sept. 28 Women and the Japanese labor market

Yuko Ogasawara (1998). Office Ladies and Salaried Men. Chapter 1-3

Sept. 30 Office Ladies: powerless subjects or agents of resistance

Yuko Ogasawara (1998). Chapter 4-6.

Week 5

Oct. 5 Men and marginalized masculinities in Japan

*James Roberson and Nobue Suzuki (2003). Introduction in Men and Masculinity in Contemporary Japan: Beyond the Salaryman Doxa.

*James Roberson (2003). “Japanese Working-Class Masculinities: Marginalized Complicity,” pp. 126-143 in Roberson and Suzuki (eds.)

Oct. 7 Economic growth, class and consumption in South Korea

Laura Nelson (2000). Measured Excess: Status, Gender, and Consumer Nationalism in South Korea. Chapter 1-3.

Week 6

Oct. 12 Patriotism and women’s consumption

Laura Nelson (2000). Chapter 4-6.

Oct. 14 Gendered employment in China’s reform era

*Wang Zheng (2000). “Gender, Employment and Women’s Resistance,” pp. 62-82 in Elizabeth Perry and Mark Seldon (eds.): Chinese Society: Change, Conflict and Resistance.

*Li Zhang (2000). “The Interplay of Gender, Space, and Work in China’s Floating Population,” pp. 171-196 in Barbara Entwisle and Gail E. Henderson (eds.): Re-Drawing Boundaries: Work, Households, and Gender in China.

One-page paper proposal due

Mid-term essay questions distributed

Week 7

Oct. 19 Discourse of liberation in China

Lisa Rofel (1999). Other Modernities. Chapter 1-3.

Oct. 21 Shifting meaning of authority

Lisa Rofel (1999). Chapter 4-6, 8.

Week 8

Oct. 26 Marriage, motherhood and femininity after socialism

*Suzanne Z. Gottschang (2001). “The Consuming Mother: Infant Feeding and the Feminine Body in Urban China,” pp. 89-103 in Nancy C Chan et al (eds.): China Urban: Ethnographies of Contemporary Culture.

*William Jankowiak (2002). “Proper Men and Proper Women: Parental Affection in the Chinese Family,” pp. 361-380 in Susan Brownell and Jeffrey Wasserstrom (eds.): Chinese Femininities, Chinese Masculinities.

Oct. 28 Film screening and discussion

The War of Love, directed by Jiang Yue and Duan Jinchuan (45 min)

Mid-term essay due

Section III Women, Politics, and Empowerment

Week 9

Nov. 2 No class – University holiday

Nov. 4 Housewives and citizenship in Japan

Robin M. LeBlanc (1999). Bicycle Citizens: The Political World of the Japanese Housewife. Chapter 1-3.

Week 10

Nov. 9 Women and politics in Japan

Robin M. LeBlanc (1999). Chapter 4-6.

Nov. 11 Women, the state and nationalism in China

Virginia Cornue (1999). “Practicing NGOness and Relating Women’s Space Publicly: the Women’s Hotline and the State,” pp. 68-91 in Mayfair Mei-hui Yang (ed.)

Susan Brownell (1999). “Strong Women and Impotent Men: Sports, Gender, and Nationalism in Chinese Public Culture,” pp. 207-231 in Mayfair Mei-hui Yang (ed.)

Week 11

Nov. 16 War, memory, and the “Comfort Women” issue

*Hyun Sook Kim (1997). “History and Memory: The Comfort Women Controversy,” pp. 73-106 in Position (5) 1.

*John Lie (1997). “The State as Pimp: Prostitution and Patriarchal State in Japan in the 1940s,” pp. 251-264 in Sociological Quarterly 38 (2).

Nov. 18 Film screening and discussion

Habitual Sadness: Korean Comfort Women Today, directed by Byun Young-Joo (1999, 70 min)

*Hiromi Yamazaki (1996). “Military Sexual Slavery and the Women’s Movement,” pp. 90-100 in AMPO (ed.): Voice from the Japanese Women’s Movement.

*Kim Pu Ja. (1996). “Looking at Sexual Slavery from a Zainichi Perspective,” pp. 157-160 in AMPO (ed.)

Week 12

Nov. 23 Women, military bases, and international relations

*Cynthia Enloe (1989). “Base Women,” pp. 65-92 in Cynthia Enloe: Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics.

*Katherine H.S. Moon (1998). “Prostitute Bodies and Gendered States in US-Korea Relations,” pp. 141-174 in Elaine H. Kim and Chungmoo Choi (eds.): Dangerous Women.

Nov. 25 No class – Thanksgiving

Section IV: Body, Sexuality, and Transnational Gender Relations

Week 13

Nov. 30 Cross-border marriage and sex

*Nobue Suzuki (2003). “Of Love and the Marriage Market: Masculinity Politics and Filipina-Japanese Marriage in Japan,” pp. 91-108 in Roberson and Nobue (eds).

*Karen Kelsky (1996). “Flirting with the Foreign: Interracial Sex in Japan’s ‘International Age,’” pp. 173-192 in Rob Wilson and Wimal Dissanayake (eds.): Global/Local: Cultural Production and Transnational Imaginary.

Dec. 2 Cross-border fantasies and desire

Kathleen Erwin (1999). “White Women, Male Desires: A Televisual Fantasy of Transnational Chinese Family,” pp. 231-257 in Mayfair Mei-hui Yang (ed.).

*Constance D. Clark (2002). “Foreign Marriage, ‘Tradition,’ and the Politics of Border Crossing,” pp. 104-122 in Nancy C. Chan et al (eds): China Urban: Ethnographies of Contemporary Culture.

Week 14

Dec. 7 Shifting context of gender and sexuality

*Susan Brownell (2001). “Making Dream Bodies in Beijing: Athletes, Fashion Models, and Urban Mystique in China,” pp. 123-142 in Nancy C. Chan et al (eds.)

*Harriet Evans (2002). “Past, Perfect or Imperfect: Changing Images of Ideal Wife,” pp. 335-360 in Brownell and Wasserstrom (eds.)

Dec. 9 Cultural production in a transnational era

*Mike Featherstone (1996). “Localism, Globalism, and Cultural Identity,” pp. 46-77 in Rob Wilson and Wimal Dissanayake (eds.): Global/Local.

*Louisa Schein (2002). “Gender and Internal Orientalism in China,” pp. 385-411 in Brownell and Wasserstrom (eds.)

Final paper due.