restricted access Changing Lives: Life Stories of Asian Pioneers in Women's Studies ed. by Committee on Women's Studies in Asia (review)
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68Rocky Mountain Review In spite of a few inadvertencies, such as a reference to Lautréamont's Maldoror as "Malador" (106), this well-researched study is a valuable aid to our understanding of the interconnection between poetics and politics, how one serves to support and justify the other, and of how ongoing are the cultural implications and repercussions of the aesthetics ofnationalism(s). PATRICIA HOPKINS Texas Tech University COMMITTEE ON WOMEN'S STUDD3S IN ASIA, ed. Changing Lives: Life Stories of Asian Pioneers in Women's Studies. Kali for Women in India, 1994. Introd. Malavika Karlekar and Barbara Lazarus. Fwd. Florence Howe. New York: The Feminist Press, 1995. 225 p. 1 started reading Changing Lives with certain expectations. The seductive subtitle, Life Stories ofAsian Pioneers in Women's Studies, gave me the impression that part of each essay would highlight some inner personal conflict or familial barrier overcome by these pioneers. I soon realized that Asians, especially women, emphasize harmony and family honor above any other personal achievement, and that I would be disappointed if I looked for intimate accounts of how these pioneers heroically faced familial or personal crises in the pursuit of their own individuation and women's liberation . I also looked, again without much success, for accounts ofthe changing lives ofthe women who had been influenced by these pioneers. Even so, Changing Lives achieves its purpose: it will change American readers' critical consciousness. As they follow the narratives ofthe pioneers, readers will soon recognize that the concepts of both women's studies and women's oppression are not universal—they develop differently within specific sociohistoric contexts. The activist forms that women's studies and women's consciousness take in Asia are different from those in North America or Western Europe. The thirteen essays in this collection are the responses of successful women to the open-ended request to "write about your life and your interest in women's studies" (6). Most of these women hail from privileged families and many were trained in the United States, England, or Europe. Aline K. Wong of Singapore, for instance, was educated at University of CaliforniaBerkeley and is not only an Associate Professor of Sociology at the National University of Singapore, but has been a Member of Parliament since 1984 and was appointed Minister of State for Health in 1990. She, like many others , never had the opportunity to take women's studies courses, but her life situations prompted her to absorb the ideals voiced at the UN Decade for Women. Many of these women became feminists or got involved in women's studies late, like Noemi Alindogan-Medina of the Philippines. "Women's Studies and Feminism—I was a stranger to both until 1987" (153), she confesses . The book features two kinds of feminists: "Revolutionary" feminists Book Reviews69 who want to break with past traditions and "evolutionary" feminists who want to bring about change more harmoniously. The short essays cramming a lifetime of growth in feminist consciousness and pursuit of women's studies leave no room for details; nevertheless, I detected an inhibition or unwillingness to focus on personal situations except in broad, general terms that could be applied to any generic woman globally. Most of these women advocated an "evolutionary rather than a revolutionary approach to women's studies" (72) and some even actively coopted men to teach in the program. Only Cho Hyoung of Korea, whose writing dares to be more personal and autobiographical, advocates women working separately for women's rights, not cooperatively with men. Asian countries expect more cultural conformity from women than from men. Nora Lan-hung Chiang's essay made me realize that even in Taiwan, where democratic ideas have been nurtured through American influence, women still pay the price for seeking citizenship rights. Lu Hsui Lien, for example, whose activism consisted of (only) writing articles in the newspapers and calling attention to the discrimination against women in law and the double standards that operate in society, was tried in 1979 by the "martial court" and jailed for five years for attacking traditional values and bringing feminist ideas from the United States (180-81). Yasuko Muramatsu, an economist, who chaired the Tokyo-based IGSWs...