Gendering Chinese diaspora: New Women’s Monthly and transnational sisterhood in postwar Malaya

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    Studies on the Chinese diaspora often privilege male subjects as agents of mobility, the patriarch in kinship, social networks and livelihood, and producers of knowledge and thoughts, perpetuating an androcentric understanding of Chinese-ness and diaspora. This article challenges the dominant framework and highlights the uneven ways of being diaspora in Malaya and the different political, social, and psychological experiences between men and women and between women born overseas and locally. It traces the cultural production, thoughts, and networks of Chinese women in postwar Malaya by uncovering a short-lived socialist Chinese-language women’s magazine titled New Women’s Monthly, founded by Chinese feminist intellectual Shen Zijiu. The article argues that the fluidity of transnationalism mediated the communication of ideas in the new freedom in postwar Malaya, but nationalist movements could not accommodate it. It investigates the ways the editors and writers imagine a model New Women image through transnational sisterhood narratives and how they wove together the macropolitical discourse of nationalism and practical discussion of women’s emancipation, solidarity, and mobilization. These imaginations showcased the complex interplay of the women’s gendered intersubjectivities of the self, the family, the nation, and the world, through which women were empowered and constrained at the same time. In the end, Shen Zijiu’s harsh criticism of “Miss Nanyang” indicated her nationalist expectations for Chinese Malayan women to serve both Malaya and China were impractical and resulted in the exclusion of sisterhood for the creation of a modern national identity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)625-642
    JournalInter-Asia Cultural Studies
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2023

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