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ASIAN STUDIES CONFERENCE JAPAN

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Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181





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1999 June 26 conference

Room 301

3 Gender and Sexual Identity
Organizer: Aya Ezawa, University of Illinois/ University of Tokyo, and
James Farrer, Sophia University


Panel abstract:
The three papers on this panel use empirical evidence to deconstruct categories of sexual and gender experience in Japan and in China, and to reconstruct these categories in more empirically and theoretically informed ways.Shin'ichi Ino's paper on "Gay Identities in Japan" uses historical and documentary evidence from the gay movement in Japan to question the link between sexuality and identity that has been seen as central to gay movements and gay awareness in the West, and to question whether a strict dichotomy between 'homosexuality' and 'heterosexuality' should be imposed on the Japanese gay movement.Aya Ezawa's paper "Women between Family and Work: Life Histories of Japanese Lone Mothers" questions whether the category of 'lone mother' in Japan identifies a particular category of women with shared background characteristics. Using qualitative and quantitative data, Ezawa reconstructs the category of lone mother in terms of the particular constraints on the formation of female-headed households in Japan. James Farrer in his paper "Negotiating Virginity in Premarital Sexual Relations in Shanghai" describes the multi-vocality of discourses of virginity in contemporary China, presenting empirical evidence of how conflicting norms of virginity are negotiated and challenged in different sites in Shanghai ranging from public discussions to personal narratives.All three papers contribute to an understanding of how categories of sexual and gender experience can be constructed in relation to the experiences and practices of people in Japan or China.They all problematize the categories they study in terms of their usefulness as analytic tools and express a concern for creating conceptual categories that better reflect the experiences of gender and sexuality of the people these categories are meant to represent.

1)
John Clammer, Sophia University, "Wives and Concubines:  Sexual Economy
in an Overseas Chinese Community"


2) Aya Ezawa, University of Illinois/ University of Tokyo. "Women between
Family and Work: Life Histories of Japanese Lone Mothers"


The poverty of Japanese lone mothers reflects critically on Japanese women's position in the economy and society. Viewed from the perspective of lone mothers, it is questionable to what extent changes in women's employment have supported women's economic independence. The decline in the average income of lone mothers in comparison with other households in the last 15 years-- from 50% to 35% --and a comparatively high reliance on public assistance underlines this question.This paper explores some of the parameters that limit lone mothers economic welfare going beyond macro-level statistics. By considering the social background, social and economic capital of lone mothers and their long-term life experience, I will discuss how the 'average low income' of lone mothers is embedded in everyday life issues and macro-structural constraints. While there is nothing that could define lone mothers with regards to shared characteristics, they 'become' lone mothers as a result of the particular constraints facing them in forming a female-headed household. My discussion relies on my field work on lone mothers in Japan, and includes a range of sources.Beyond general statistics on women's employment, a number of surveys by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Ministry of Labor, and independent organizations have documented the situation of lone mothers. My own interviews of lone mothers in Tokyo will add specific cases and current issues to this discussion.

3) James Farrer, Sophia University."Negotiating Virginity in Premarital
Sexual Relations in Shanghai"


Virginity, or premarital chastity, is an important category in China, as in many societies.And for much of Chinese history, women's virginity has been constructed as an
important condition for marriage, a valuable commodity and a sign of her moral worth. In contemporary China, however, sex among unmarried men and women appears to have become increasingly common and accepted. This paper attempts to describe some of the ways a partial and conditional acceptance of premarital sex is understood and negotiated in Shanghai by individuals, between young men and women, between youth and their parents, by school officials and within the official media.By looking at these different sites for the articulation of 'discourses' of sexual chastity, I believe I can move toward a more nuanced understanding of change in sexual standards and what they mean for individuals, especially for the sexually active young women who are most effected by these discourses.This paper is based on research conducted in Shanghai from 1994-1996. Data include focus group interviews, individual interviews, analysis of media discourses and ethnographic observations. By looking at a wide range of materials ranging from the most 'public' to the most 'private' I believe I arrive at a more adequate description of how young Chinese negotiate their sexual options for themselves and with others. This should prove a better way of the understanding the contingent, ambiguous, multivocal and negotiated aspects of 'chastity' than merely examining quasi-official public discourses or individual responses to survey questionnaires.

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