CFP: Confucianism and Feminism


Confucius and Feminism

Co-editors: Mathew A. Foust (Central Connecticut State University) & Sor-hoon Tan (National University of Singapore)

Chenyang Li’s path-breaking The Sage and the Second Sex (2000) challenged the traditionally received notion of Confucianism abetting the oppression of women in three ways.  With studies of a wide range of Confucians, including Mencius, Xunzi, and Li Zhi, and historical periods stretching from fifth century BCE to sixteenth century, contributions to the edited volume suggested that women’s situations in Chinese history were not as bad as has been supposed; that core Confucian teachings have had little to do with anything bad about their situations; and that Confucianism offers an ethical vision compatible with Feminism.

The past decade has seen the publication of Lisa Rosenlee’s Confucianism and Women: A Philosophical Interpretation (2006), as well as more articles and book chapters exploring the philosophical encounter between Confucianism and Feminism in subjects ranging from Philosophy, Religion, to Cultural Studies, Bioethics to Feminism.  Research in this area has also been provided more resources such as translations of Chinese writings by and on women in China, usually covering a broader spectrum than Confucianism, such as Under Confucian Eyes: Writings on Gender in Chinese History (2001), edited by Susan Mann and Yu-ying Cheng, and Robin Wang’s Images or Women in Chinese Thought and Culture: Writings from the Pre-Qin Period through the Song Dynasty (2003). There are also many excellent studies of women’s lives in China from different historical periods, and contemporary discussions of Feminism in China.  Scholars working in and on Korea and Japan have also contributed to the growing interest in the interaction between Confucianism and Feminism, which could have significant implications for the challenge to ethnocentrism and aspiration to locally rooted, yet global, Feminisms.

The time is right for a new anthology that will showcase recent work exemplifying the progress made in this area over the past decade, challenging us to consider and fill some significant gaps, and suggesting new directions that stimulate further research.  Rather than discussing Confucianism in general, this project is interested in the teachings of Confucius – so that the scope of textual materials considered lies somewhere between Confucianism in total and the Analects alone.  It aims to go beyond the much discussed care ethics, and common arguments of how ren (humaneness) can ground an egalitarian humanism that include gender equality.  There are new topics in Confucian ethics worthy of engaging from Feminist perspectives; for example, Confucian role ethics, bioethics, environmental ethics, or moral psychology.  On questions such as equality or justice, one needs to identify more difficult obstacles to overcome instead of leveraging only the most idealistic aspects of Confucius’s teachings, if we wish to convince the toughest Feminist critics.  The volume intends to redress to some extent the predominance of ethics and political philosophy in current Confucian discourse, and especially invite contributors interested in topics in other philosophical areas such as epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophical methodology, or metaphysics.

The plan for the book includes two main sections.  One section will focus on feminist readings of different selected texts, or studies of texts that, one could argue, present a feminist encounter with Confucius or challenge standard understandings of Feminism in ways that improve rather than undermine the latter.  For example, to what extent can the Nü Lunyu and Nü Xiaojing be considered early feminist readings of the Master’s teachings? Is the theory and practice of rituals as recorded in the Book of Rites anti-feminist, or could aspiring Confucian feminists find any use for that text today? The texts in question need not be limited to Chinese texts, as the Master’s teachings have been central to Korean and Japanese Confucianisms, which have produced their own textual traditions.

The chapters in the second section will each take up some specific issue with which Feminists have engaged and extend the conversation to include Confucius.  Each contribution should reveal both agreements and disagreements at various levels, from conceptual frameworks, methods, to practical conclusions.  Through the encounter of Feminism and Confucius’s perspectives, each contributor should generate novel answers to the questions addressed, and in some cases may also raise new questions about the chosen topic, inadequacies in how it has been addressed in previous Feminist or Confucian discourse, or raise challenges for either or both Feminism and Confucianism.  Issues that this second section may take up can include but are not limited to education, family, oppression, leadership, global justice or just wars, domestic violence, autonomy/vulnerability, intersubjectivity, masculinity/femininity, desire and sexuality, reproductive technology, abortion, elderly care, embodied knowledge, epistemological value of ignorance or standpoint epistemology, ethics of emotions or ethics of embodiment.

The deadline for submissions is March 31, 2014.  Submit papers (5,000-8,000 words) or proposals (any length) to: 

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