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  • Introduction
  • Tani Barlow, Senior Editor

Two expository essays on problems of thinking in feminism across national conventions or canons open this issue. Mary John argues in "Sexing the Fetus: Feminist Politics and Method across Cultures" that physical locations, intellectual core assumptions, and even the uses of statistics and deployment of intimacy have delicate and demanding roles to play in feminist deliberation. She invites exchange among those for whom the fetus should be an analytic problem: everyone. The "missing girls" phenomenon, she points out, requires us to know, yet there is a gap between knowing something and thinking clearly about it. One can yearn for "partial visions of global technoscience," as Donna Haraway does, but must not remain oblivious to the nuts and bolts of how technoscience changes sex ratios in India and San Francisco. The U.S. feminist habit of personalizing abortion, as Rayna Rapp's ethnography of New York City clinics does, poses a question about [End Page 1] how U.S. feminist criticism obscures its own conceptual rigidities and blind spots. This intricate job of learning about differences that characterize common issues in globalization and thinking these differently, more critically, more intelligently, is John's ultimate challenge to collaborative feminism.

Nicola Spakowski's " 'Gender Trouble': Feminism in China and the Spatialization of Identity" thinks at the site of a feminism situated in the People's Republic of China (PRC) and among feminist compatriots overseas. So extreme is contention among PRC feminist scholars over questions of epistemology, nationalism, state policy, global governance, regionalism, the socialist heritage, and so on that as yet they have no common brand, not even "Chinese feminism." A peripheral member of this discussion, Spakowski reports on the status of the debate over the ideologem "gender." U.S. "international feminism" advocates introduced that term in the late eighties and early nineties, and it is hegemonic now. Yet over decades of criticism, "gender" has produced a question of its own: what is the space of the local? As Spakowski deftly shows, gender, from the outset, has been cast in terms of the United States, international feminism, and NGO rhetoric of universals and particularities, which effectively necessitates an indigenist response. Export "gender theory" consumers must declare where their particular local is and what its particularities are. Spakowski raises, therefore, a similar conundrum to Mary John's. Only the intricate knowledge of who is thinking and what they are thinking about can overcome packaged ideas and open alternatives to predictable feminist impasses. Spakowski, like John, also shows why the nation is not a stable platform for thinking feminism.

Thinking the nation is central to the next two papers, Lisa Claypool's "Ways of Seeing the Nation: Chinese Painting in the National Essence Journal (1905-1911) and Exhibition Culture" and Richard Reitan's "Claiming Personality: Reassessing the Dangers of the 'New Woman' in Early Taish. Japan." In the case of Claypool the problem is twofold. In the time before the consolidation of the nation, as elite intellectuals sought conceptual pathways to that national feeling, there came a moment of visual polysemy before national standardization, and she analyzes this moment for the reader. But Claypool argues that the stress of nation-making can be seen in the fragmented, ambiguous, and indistinct, as she puts it, visual order of that moment as well. An additional distinction underlying her careful analysis [End Page 2] is that visuality is a positivity; it does not reflect the world but shapes it. The 1870s through the early decades of the twentieth century was an era that redirected the eye, reoriented the senses, established modernist taxonomies, nationalized appreciation, commodified art as an open market, and, of course, created the journal culture that would support not just the revolution of vision but the intellectual apparatus of Chinese modernist thinking.

Richard Reitan's focus is a debate over nation and personality. In its own paroxysm of nation-founding, in the Meiji Restoration and early Taish. periods an important segment of the intellectual community focused on political morality and the subdisciplines of civics, national character, personality theory, and appropriate modern typologies of masculine and feminine, men and women. Reitan raises the question of how the canonical writing and storied lives...


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