Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Chinese American women in the early twentieth century and the question of modernity/coloniality
by Kuo, Jen-feng, Ph.D., State University of New York at Binghamton, 2010, 235; 3408448
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores the normative understanding Chinese American women’s subjectivity in relation to modernity/coloniality. I consider Chinese women’s experiences in early twentieth-century United States as modernizing experiences and examine the idealized qualities proposed as modern to them. I investigate how modern are those qualities, from whom and with what socio-political interests are they proposed, as opposed to what qualities are they proposed, and what the consequences are.

This work intersects race, gender, and empire in reading the construction of Chinese American women’s idealized qualities and understands that it was simultaneously a construction of a binary thinking. This binary contrasted U.S. or Western thinking and values with traditional Chinese thinking along with the modern-traditional and progressive-backward binary. I employ works from Anibal Quijano, María Lugones, and Walter Mignolo and Madina Tlostanova as primary frames of analysis. With those works I consider modernity and coloniality as mutually constituted and constitutive, differentiating peoples and knowledges of the world in a Eurocentric racial order. It is in this construct that Chinese American women’s modernizing experiences are shaped.

With China’s historical complexity in mind, I conduct a research on female virtues in eighteenth-century China. Its twofold purposes serve as a reading of China’s expressions of female ideal qualities right before massive contact with the West as well as a point of contrast to the idealized qualities proposed to Chinese American women. As the study turns to the construction of Chinese American women’s ideal qualities in early twentieth-century San Francisco, it involved the agendas and socio-political interests of white missionary women, Chinese American male opinion makers, and Chinese American women. The complexity included issues of unequal racial and gender powers, Chinese nationalist movement, and Chinese American women’s development.

I further explore Chinese American women’s peculiar racializing experiences. In my argument, the historical process of differential relations in imperial status between the U.S. and China since the mid nineteenth century was the larger context that racialized Chinese subjects differently. It gives a reason how American social culture saw Chinese subjects with a peculiar perception; it also suggests how Chinese Americans saw themselves as subordinated but not “racialized”.

Keywords: Chinese American women, modernity/coloniality, Eurocentrism, gender and the coloniality of gender, the imperial difference

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Lugones, Maria
Commitee: Chang, Derek, De Vera, Arleen, Price, Joshua
School: State University of New York at Binghamton
Department: Philosophy, Interpretation, and Culture
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 71/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Asian American Studies, Ethnic studies, Gender studies
Keywords: Chinese American women, Chinese-American, Coloniality, Eurocentrism, Gender and coloniality of gender, Modernity, Modernity/coloniality, The imperial difference, Twentieth century, Women
Publication Number: 3408448
ISBN: 9781124046334
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