I am delighted to kick off the East Asia blogs for the WIG website! Joining me are Rui Kohiyama (American and Gender Studies, Tokyo Women’s Christian University) and Febe Pamonag, History Department, Western Illinois University). We welcome other contributors and are particularly interested in specialists in China, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Please contact me if you would like to join us (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I had planned to inaugurate the East Asia blogs with an overview of the very lively field of Japanese transnational feminist studies in English. In North America in the past six months alone, numerous scholars in a variety of disciplines have given papers addressing transnational feminisms at major conferences. Presenters at the Emory University conference on “Sex, Gender and Society: Rethinking Modern Japanese Feminisms” (April 2013), the Association for Asian Studies meeting (March 2013, San Diego), the Western Association of Women Historians (May 2013, Portland OR), and regional meetings such as the conference of the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association (August, Denver CO) added to this growing field in the spring and summer of 2013. Books and articles in major disciplinary journals have included works by Anglophone scholars from all over the world. So it’s no exaggeration to say this is a lively field of study!
But I was inspired by the exciting blogs on the WIG website describing the IFRWH conference at Sheffield Hallam University, so I’ve decided to join them and discuss my experience at that meeting. For a Japan specialist, the conference was a real thrill. I had never been able to attend the IFRWH in the past, and this meeting was fabulous. The contingent of Japan specialists was huge, and the quality of their work was really fine. The organizers’ integration of the Japan work in panels that covered a variety of global and thematic areas was brilliant. Most of us came from very long distances, but the excitement of seeing old friends and meeting new ones, together with copious amounts of coffee and tea during the breaks, kept us all on our toes. Unfortunately, as prolific as the Japanese scholarship was, the number of presentations of work on other parts of East Asia was small.
Many papers were in panels whose titles explicitly foregrounded transnationalism, and I could wander from session to session and never be far from the topic. Among the presenters whose panel titles included “transnational” either explicitly or implicitly were: Andrea Germer, “The Gender of Modernity in Foreign Propaganda: Transnational Trajectories in Wartime Japan;” Vera Mackie, “The Local and the Global in the 1950s: The World Congress of Mothers and the Hahaoya Taikai;” Ulrike Woehr, “Japan’s Post-1970s Anti-Nuclear Power Movement in National and Transnational Contexts;” Tamiko Miyatsu, “Daughters of Transnational Women’s Activism in the Progressive Era: Mary Church Terrell and Raicho Hiratsuka;” Marie Sandell, “‘Unifying the People of the East and the West”: WILPF’s Mission to East Asia in the Late 1920s;” Mieko Kojima, “Ana. C. Hartshorne and the Funding of the Philadelphia Committee;” Barbara Molony, “Transnational Feminisms;” Christine Levy, “Globalisation et feminisms au Japon: de la critique de l’impérialism à la question dépassement des nationalisms;” and Mara Patessio, “Rough Encounters, Jagged Conflicts, and Intimate Exchanges: Japanese Women Teaching Korean, Taiwanese, and Chinese Women during the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries.” This was such a rich collection of papers that I hope I haven’t left anyone out!
A number of papers addressed empire and its ramifications: Chisako Uno, “Woman and Body in Imperial Japan;” Misako Kunihara, “Images of Nurses in Imperial Japan;” and Shizue Tachibana, “Between Two Empires: The Marriage of Harriet Dickinson and Kojiro Tomita. Empire is arguably a manifestation of transnationalism as well.
Joining those papers were excellent presentations in panels that dealt with women whose transnational migrations attuned them to questions of identity: Junko Sakai, “Japanese Women on the Move: Between Global and Local Identities;” and the only paper with a Korean-American theme, Sandra J. Song’s “Memory’s Irreverent Stain? Family, Nation, and Blood in the Writing of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha.” Topics in transnational marriage and discourses on sexuality were addressed by Taeko Shibahara, “American Nadeshiko, Frances Hawks Cameron Burnett;” and Yoko Hayashi, “The Influence of the British Movement against Licensed Prostitution upon Japanese Society in the Meiji Era.” The implantation of democracy in postwar rural Japan was carefully analyzed by Fumi Iwashima in “Rural Women and Democratization Policies in Postwar Japan: The Big Picture as Seen from a Case Study of Kumihama-cho.”
South Asian topics were also well represented in numerous papers at the meeting. But there were only five papers on the rest of East Asia. These were the excellent presentations on the Philippines—Inma Alva’s “Trader Women in Manila in the 18th Century,” Laura R. Prieto’s “Women, Missions and the Politics of Dress in the Philippines, 1898-1940,” and Emily Sloan’s “Suffragist Identity and Networks of Power: Carrie Chapman Catt in the Philippines, 1912”— on China—Jerry Chang’s “Banking of Women in Shanghai: The Shanghai Women’s Commercial and Savings Bank, 1924-1955,” and on Malaya—Arunima Datta’s “From Dependent Wives to Independent Wage Earners: Indian Coolie Women on Colonial Malay Plantations.” The next IFRWH will be in China, and I hope those of us in the Japan field will be joined by more of our colleagues who work in other parts of East Asia.