Diasporic Women's Life Course in Transition

Szu-Nuo Chou

Through a contextualised analysis of diasporic Chinese women’s life histories, this article explores Chinese refugee women’s gender role practices and their social connections during and after the Anti-Japanese War (1937-1945). Diasporic women usually have far fewer family resources and receive insufficient social supports (including food, house, financial help and medical treatment) in their journey of exile. Therefore, on the one hand, they usually endured domestic hardship and sexual violence from the military soldiers (including the direct harassment from their husbands); on the other side, they expressed a fierce loyalty to their female friendships and show a deeper empathy with each other. Women’s wartime narratives reveal how gendered social power affects ordinary women’s life choices, and how they reflect their position in these power relationships. Meanwhile, this research finds out Chinese diasporic women, as the outsiders of their husband’s family and as the marginalized group in the host society, may have developed their unique survival strategies and colluded with their “sworn sisters” as a mean to resist patriarchal oppression. As for the method, I have interviewed 44 Chinese women who have participated in the war as refugees, temporary workers, nurses, diasporic students, or military dependents. They are now in the 85-and-over age group and most of them have never reported their stories in public before my visit. The research outputs are mainly based on first-hand historical data (oral history and auto/biography) and my own fieldwork observations. In general, those diasporic women are more conscious of the intersectional oppressions as it is manifested through institutional discrimination, physical violence, sexual harassment, and male gaze. This research will thus particularly pinpoint women’s ideological reflections on their life courses and folklore philosophies. In the end, I expect this approach can reflect local women’s standpoint as “another truth” in the discussion of Chinese wartime history.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 10. Intersections of Migration and Gender