Narratives of race and nation in China: women's suffrage in the early twentieth century

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Womens Studies International Forum, 2002, 25 (6), pp. 619 - 630
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This paper explores the ways in which the Chinese women's suffrage movement used racializing narratives to alter the boundaries that had excluded women from full participation in politics in the first two decades of the 20th century. It extends existing work on the connection between narratives of race and women's suffrage in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA to explore how race was mobilized in China in the late-Qing and early Republican period. The article has three main areas of innovation. First, it explores the deployment of racializing narratives within the broader discourses of modernity circulating in China wherein modernization was premised on a racialized notion of national identity that is modernization as Han chauvinism. Second, this article aims to participate in the process of extending the history of women's suffrage from primary reliance on class analysis and towards methods that explore the multiple categories of exclusion and inclusion. Third, this article aims to explore the manner in which narratives of race were invoked within a feminist political campaign that occurred in a nation without a history of European colonization. The article demonstrates that the multiplicity of possible gains sought under the banner of race makes it an unreliable category to invoke for struggles that are ultimately determined by gendered divisions.
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