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Guest Lecture: Shelly Chan (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Nov 19, 2018 | 02:00 PM - 04:00 PM

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 two intersecting dimensions of Chinese transnationalism, gender and temporality. 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 reacted differently to land and marriage reform. Chan argues that this complex engagement 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 national 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.

Shelly Chan is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Chan’s research focuses on the history of Chinese migration and diaspora and the effects on China and Asia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Published by Duke University Press, Chan’s new book, Diaspora’s Homeland: Modern China in the Age of Global Migration, situates China’s national development in the context of migrant flows and reconceptualizes “diaspora” as moments rather than as communities. Building on this study, Chan is working on a new project about the South Seas (“Nanyang”)—a maritime region connecting coastal China and Southeast Asia—asking how Nanyang rose and declined as an origin of Chinese identity and power in the twentieth century.

This lecture is part of the lecture series "Gender and Sexuality in Transnational East Asia" organized by Shuxuan Zhou and Hyun Gyung Kim.

Time & Location

Nov 19, 2018 | 02:00 PM - 04:00 PM

Room 2.2051 (second floor)
Fabeckstr. 23-25
14195 Berlin