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Translating Domesticity in Chinese History and Historiography


Author: Elizabeth LaCouture 

Title: Translating Domesticity in Chinese History and Historiography

Publication venue: Article, published in the American Historical Review 

Date: October 2019 


This article examines knowledge about “domesticity” in China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and argues against the naturalization of Euro-American historiographical frameworks around “domesticity.” “Domesticity” was not a Chinese concept: although Confucianism had long connected the household to the state through ideology and prescriptive practices, Anglo-American ideas about “domesticity” were translated into Chinese first by way of Japan in the late nineteenth century, and second by way of American missionary educators in the twentieth century. “Domesticity” did not translate easily into Chinese, however; neither the ideology nor its pedagogical practices ever became popular in China. The history of translating “domesticity” into Chinese thus reveals that Euro-American historiographical terms that were once thought to be universal map poorly onto other places and suggests that we need more inclusive frames for comparative gender history.

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