Aspects of the Female Intellectuals: Fictional Characters, Writers, Activists and Archivists

Title: 1187 | Aspects of the Female Intellectuals: Fictional Characters, Writers, Activists and Archivists
Area: China and Inner Asia
Stream: Literature
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Ruttapond Swanpitak, The University of Sydney (Australia) and Chulalongkorn University (Thailand)
Zhifan Sheng, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (presenter)
Nim-yan Wong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (presenter, chair, discussant)


This panel examines the four aspects of female intellectuals in twentieth-century China, which lay beyond the current definitions of the mere ‘talented women’ or the Bluestocking circle, and the legacy of these aspects for succeeding women intellectuals. It looks at how female writers Chi Li 池莉 and Tie Ning 鐵凝 subject their heroines to moral and sexual transgressions in the PRC; how women writers Zhu Tianxin 朱天文 and Zhu Tianxin 朱天心, the two sisters, represent the self-identities of modern Taiwanese female intellectuals affected from the cultural hybridity and the postcolonial background; how He Zhen’s 何震 work on the journal Natural Justice《天義報》contributes to our current understanding of feminism; and how archivist Xiao Si’s 小思 ongoing resistance to the academic mainstream of Hong Kong literary studies resulted in forms of female scholarly works, including the development of personal archives, electronic databases, painstaking documentations and editorships. The brief overview of the four aspects focuses on a seeming paradox of female intellectuals—a tendency to subject their rationality in the form of complexity, unpredictability, fractal boundaries and chaos.

Panel Abstracts:
Representations of Intellectual Women in the Fiction of Chi Li and Tie Ning: Subjectivity, Femininity and Transgression
Chi Li and Tie Ning are two of the most prominent women writers in contemporary China. This paper examines representations of intellectual women and new notions of female subjectivity, sexuality and transgression through a textual analysis of Chi Li’s novel Good Morning, Miss 《小姐你早》(1998) and Tie Ning’s novel The Bathing Women 《大浴女》(2000). The former investigates the awakening gender consciousness of divorced women, motherhood, sisterhood and collective resistance to patriarchy, while the latter explores women’s private lives and experiences concerning family secrets and adulterous affairs. The protagonists of both two novels are female intellectuals: a senior researcher and a vice director of the Publishing House, respectively. Specifically, the paper discusses how the two authors assert women’s differences of their bodies, desires and experiences, to form a multiple, complex and decentred female subjectivity, going beyond patriarchal assumptions about subjectivity and femininity. It also analyses the effects of political and socioeconomic transformations on intellectual women, in particular. Chi Li’s work highlights womanhood in urban consumer culture and the female bond that helps the protagonist redeem her femininity and participates in taking revenge on her unfaithful husband. In contrast, Tie Ning’s work critiques recent political history by transforming the guilt and immoral acts of individuals in private life into the result of historical repression and political forces. Although the two authors have different treatment of feminist themes, their depictions of women’s self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-transformation and sexual transgression express feminist consciousness, challenging patriarchal cultures and dominant gender discourses.

Theorizing Gender and Inequality: He Zhen’s Anarcho-feminism in Natural Justice
Sociologist Raewyn Connell once suggested a way of passing the dilemma posed by Eurocentrism and local epistemology in the making of feminist knowledge is to recognize how “the periphery does produce theory.” In a similar project, Lydia Liu and the other two scholars edited an anthology introducing late Qing Chinese feminism into English academia, emanating transnational energy in challenging western thinking of gender and sex. Extending Connell and Liu’s insights, this paper focuses on late Qing anarchist He Zhen’s 何震 (1884-1920) feminist essays in the journal Natural Justice (Tianyi 天義, 1907-1908) and examines how she theorized gender and inequality in both Chinese and international contexts. For He Zhen, gender, or nan nü, is nothing but a naming; it is the product of some given assumptions, worked through nurture, education, and other social practices. Envisioned from a utopian imagination immanent in anarchist thinking, what she concerned was a condition of equality attributed to all human beings, regardless of gender. In calling for such humanist equality, He Zhen made a radical critique of a gendered inequality pervasive in languages, texts, and ritual as well as economic systems. This inequality, rooted, produced, and sustained in different cultural and historical circumstances, is manifested by multiple intersections between gender politics and concrete forms of imperialism, patriarchy, capitalism, and nationalism. Through excavating importance and depth in He Zhen’s theoretical work, this paper thus provides some new perspectives for feminist theory.

Life's Ups and Downs: A Study of Hong Kong-China Cultural Interactions in Lo Wai Luen (Xiao Si) (1939- ) Archives
The paper is intended to provide an in-depth analysis of the ‘Hong Kong Literature Archives’ compiled by Lo Wai Luen (Xiao Si) (1939- ), who is acknowledged as 'the most qualified writer on Hong Kong literary history', through tools of digital humanities as well as ‘a model of bifurcation’. In Archive Fever, Derrida suggests that the moments of archivization are infinite throughout the life of the artifact: ‘[T]he technical structure of the archiving archive also determines the structure of the archival even content even in its very coming into existence and in its relationship to the future. The archivization produces as much as it records the event.’ As a self-conscious female intellectual, Xiao Si has presented a perfect example of archive fever towards the ups and downs of Hong Kong-China relationships since 1920’s, which were awe-inspiringly chaotic and could be visualized with the help of analytic tools of digital humanities

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