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Tani Barlow, "Ghosts in the Mirrors: Advertising the Real Woman in Chinese Commercial Ephemera"

Friday, November 3, 2017 at 4:30pm to 6:00pm

A.D. White House

Dr. Tani Barlow will be delivering the keynote address for the Haunted: Temporalities of History and (Moving) Image in ‘Asia’ conference at 4:30 pm on November 3, 2017 in A.D. White House.  

Ghosts in the Mirrors:  Advertising the Real Woman in Chinese Commercial Ephemera

Barlow’s In the Event of Women refers to the discovery, on the part of Chinese intellectuals of the truth of women—the fact that women play a central role not only in evolutionary progress, but also in national social evolution. Recognizing physiology’s truth claims, early twentieth century Chinese intellectuals and consumers fully embraced the real woman on the new terrain of “society.”  In this talk Barlow draws out a general question implicit in her book:  What is the ontological status of the sexed body, historically? Using commercial, period, advertising ephemera, contemporary sociologies, and specific political conflicts among contemporaries over the truth of women, she makes a case that modernist, historical, singular recognition of women’s physiological material or “flesh” body is commonplace and historical. Although an event of women took place a century ago and an ocean away, the Chinese historical conjuncture was neither arbitrary nor singular.  This illustrated presentation invites scholars to join a discussion about socialist sexual evolutionary theory, vernacular sociology, Freudian psychoanalytic philosophy and how these globally modern ideas authorized the flesh body of real women.  The ontological status of the sexed body is not in fact ontological in a philosophic sense; the ontology itself is meaningful only in the modern world of colonial modernity and commercial capitalism. 

Tani Barlow is a T.T. and W.F. Chao Professor teaching in the Department of History.  Professor Barlow's research focus is Chinese feminism and women's history.  Her new monograph In the Event of Women is forthcoming from Duke University Press.  Barlow is also the author of The Question of Women in Chinese Feminism (Duke University Press, 2004), and in Japanese Inter/National Feminism and China, Ito Ruri and Kobayashi Eri, trans., (Tokyo: Ochanomizu Press, 2003). In addition, Barlow has published edited books, articles, and essays on a variety of China- and Asia-related topics, including not only women and gender but also colonialism, globalization, social science, literature, consumerism, and advertising. Among the works she has authored, co-authored, edited, or co-edited are: The Modern Girl Around the World (Duke University Press, 2008); The Modern Girl, Colonial Modernity, and East Asia (Iwanami Shoten, in press [in Japanese]);  New Asian Marxisms (Duke University Press, 2002); Cinema and Desire: The Cultural Politics of Feminist Marxist Dai Jinhua (Verso, 2002); Formations of Colonial Modernity in East Asia (Duke University Press, 1997); Gender Politics in Modern China: Writing and Feminism (Duke University Press, 1994); and I Myself Am a Woman: Selected Writings of Ding Ling (Beacon, 1999).  

Event Type

Conference/Workshop, Presentation


Cornell Cinema, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, Society for the Humanities, Comparative Muslim Societies Program, East Asia Program, Southeast Asia Program, South Asia Program

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James Nagy

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Tani Barlow

Speaker Affiliation

Rice University

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