2015 Spring EL6012

Topics in Feminisms - Divisions in Feminist Thought

DING Naifei

Thursday 0900-1200 , C2-437


Office hours: Thursday 1300-1500 & by appt., A204

At the end of an essay written in 1975 in the US, Gayle Rubin calls for a political economy of what she terms the sex/gender system. Hill Gates (1996) could be read as responding obliquely in 1996 with a synthesizing tale of two modes of production in part based upon ethnographies with working-class women and families in Taiwan and Sichuan in the latter half of the twentieth century. Finally, Prabha Kotiswaran (2011) queries and bridges a three-way divide between Marxist feminist housework debates, and sex as violence versus work divisions, toward a post-colonial materialist feminist theorizing of a marriage and sex work continuum, via legal ethnographies in two sites in India into the first decade of this century. We will read a selection from and about these debates, mediated through key texts from these as well as others in a variety of genres (fiction, tv drama, documentary film) to bring our discussion into dialogue with the present.

Class schedule:



“[Engels] tried to relate men and women, town and country, kinship and state, forms of property, systems of land tenure, convertibility of wealth, forms of exchange, the technology of food production, and forms of trade, to name a few, into a systematic historical account. Eventually, someone will have to write a new version of The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, recognizing the mutual interdependence of sexuality, economics, and politics without underestimating the full significance of each in human society.” (Gayle Rubin, 1984: 210)

domestic economies

Gayle Rubin, “Traffic in Women” (1975)


Gayle Rubin, “Thinking Sex” (1984)


Hortense Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book” (1987)


Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues (1993)

  • Carole Vance, “Thinking Trafficking, Thinking Sex”; Essay 1 Due (5-7 pages)
  • Beloso, Brooks Meredith (2012): “Sex, Work, and the Feminist Erasure of Class”, Signs (University of Chicago), 38:1, 47-70
  • Davis, Angela (1998): “The Approaching Obsolescence of Housework: A Working-Class Perspective”, “Surrogates and Outcast Mothers: Racism and Reproductive Politics in the Nineties”, The Angela Y. Davis Reader, Joy James (ed), Blackwell, 193-209, 210-221
  • Fraser, Nancy (2009): “Feminism, Capitalism, and the Cunning of History”, New Left Review, 56 (March/April), 116-7
  • Ho, Josephine (2003): “Emerging Challenges to Feminist Gender/Sexuality Theories and Politics in East Asia: 2003 Lecture Series”, Ochanomizu University, Tokyo Japan, http://sex.ncu.edu.tw/members/Ho/tokyo/tokyo_index.htm
  • Kennedy, Elizabeth, and Madeline Davis (1993). Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community, Routledge.
  • Lorde, Audre (1984): Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, The Crossing Press
  • Mies, Maria (1986). “Colonization and Housewifization,” Chapter 3, Patriarchy and capital accumulation on a world scale: women in the international division of labour, Zed Books, 1986.
    Colonization and housewifization - Maria Mies
  • Rich, Adrienne (1980): “Compulsory Heterosexuality and the Lesbian Continuum” Signs, Vol. 5, No. 4, Women: Sex and Sexuality, pp. 631-660
  • Rubin, Gayle (2011) Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader, Duke University Press
  • Sangster, Joan, and Meg Luxton (2013): “Feminism, co-optation and the problems of amnesia: a response to Nancy Fraser”, The Question of Strategy, Socialist Register, Monthly Review Press
  • Spillers, Hortense (1987): “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book, Diacritics, 17:2, “Culture and Countermemory: The “American” Connection,” 65-81
  • Vance, Carole (2010). “Thinking Trafficking, Thinking Sex”: GLQ 17:1, Duke University Press.
    • ----- (2011). “States of Contradiction: Twelve Ways to Do Nothing About Trafficking While Pretending To”: Social Research, 78:3, 933-948
    • ----- (2012). “Innocence and Experience: Melodramatic Narratives of Sex Trafficking and Their Consequences for Law and Policy”: History of the Present, 2:2 (Fall), 200-218.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that Chinese daughters are the byproducts of attempts to produce Chinese sons.” (Hill Gates, 1996: 121)


Hill Gates, “The Tributary and Petty-Capitalist Modes of Production”; “Patricorporations”


Hill Gates, “Dowry and Brideprice”


Kathryn Bernhardt, “Daughters’ Inheritance Rights”


Gail Hershatter, “Histories and Hierarchies”


<艋舺的女人>(Monga Women, 2014 tv drama, Holo and Mandarin)

  • Carole Vance, “Innocence and Experience”; Essay 2 Due (5-7 pages)
  • Barlow, Tani (2004): “History and Catachresis”, The Question of Women in Chinese Feminism, Duke University Press, 15-36
  • Benjamin, Geoffrey (1988): “The Unseen Presence: A Theory of the Nation-State and its Mystifications”, National University of Singapore (ISBN 9971-62-511-3)
  • Bernhardt, Kathryn (1999): “Daughters’ Inheritance Rights Under the Republican Code” and “The Property Rights of Concubines in the Imperial and Republican Periods”, Women and Property in China, 960-1949, Stanford University Press, 133-160, 161-195
  • Gates, Hill (1996): “The Tributary and Petty-Capitalist Modes of Production”, “Patricorporations: The State and the Household”, “Dowry and Brideprice”, “Folk Ideologies: Women and Men”, China’s Motor: A Thousand Years of Petty Capitalism, Cornell University Press, 13-41, 84-102, 121-147, 177-203
  • Hershatter, Gail (1997): “Histories and Hierarchies”, Dangerous Pleasures: Prostitution and Modernity in Twentieth-Century Shanghai, University of California Press, 3-68
  • Wolf, Margery (1972): Women and the Family in Rural Taiwan, Stanford University Press.

Carole Vance talk

“Meanwhile, grappling with the state while still being distanced from it seems to be a point to which the lumpen proletariat will always return in their elusive quest for justice.” (Prabha Kotiswaran, 2011: 249)


Prabha Kotiswaran, “Theorizing the Lumpen Proletariat”


Prabha Kotiswaran, “Toward a Postcolonial Materialist Feminist Theory”


Documentary Screening: “Tales of the Night Fairies” (2002, English and Bengali, directed by Shohini Ghosh)


Essay 3 Due (10-15 pages)

  • Fortunati, Leopoldina (1981, 1995): The Arcane of Reproduction: Housework, Prostitution, Labor and Capital, translated by Hilary Creek, Autonomedia
  • Kotiswaran, Prabha (2011): “Theorizing the Lumpen Proletariat: A Genealogy of Materialist Feminism on Sex Work”, “Toward a Postcolonial Materialist Feminist Theory”, Dangerous Sex, Invisible Labor: Sex Work and the Law in India, Princeton University Press, 50-84, 212-250
  • Sanyal, Kalyan (2007): “Ship of Fools”, Rethinking Capitalist Development: Primitive Accumulation, Governmentality & Post-Colonial Capitalism, Routledge, 44-104


Reading notes (20%): Due Tuesday midnight (to be uploaded to the class forum)

Presentation (20%): individual or in pairs

3 Essays (60%)