Weingarten review of Dissertation on Motherhood in Early China

Oliver Weingarten’s review of Smadar Winter’s University of Chicago Ph.D. dissertation, “Motherhood in Early China,” is available online. A couple highlights (from the review, not the dissertation itself):

  • “…An example of her disagreement with earlier scholarship is her response to attempts by Catherine Despeux and Livia Kohn to highlight the “prominence of motherhood” in the Laozi 老子. Winter counters this claim with a well-conceived alternative reading that argues for the secondary importance of motherhood in the text.”
  • “…In her conclusion, Winter revisits debates about two paradigms in the gender history of early China: “woman as victim” and “woman as agent.” While she acknowledges the importance of the latter, she reminds her readers that “women’s agency was always defined in the service of male interests.” (p. 215) To acknowledge this is crucial so as to not to forget the “forms of oppression from which early Chinese women have suffered.” Consequently, Winter argues against “a neutral-to-positive tone which seems to be saying: Yes, there was oppression, but women were still able to lead meaningful lives and fulfill their humanity in the roles that subordinated them.” (p. 216)”

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