Individual Submission Summary

Direct link:

Concubine Abolition Activists in the Republican Era, and a Fictional Concubine Manifesto

Sun, June 26, 1:00 to 2:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: BF, 012


This paper examines the anti-concubinage movement of the 1920s and 1930s, social debate, and fictional representations of polygamy in this era. Against the backdrop of the legal redefinition of marriage as “one husband, one wife” and the new gender-egalitarian model of citizenship under the new Chinese republic, this paper looks at the rhetoric of anti-concubinage activists and the fissures it reveals within new universal categories of identity that were based upon modern understandings of sexuality, gender, and citizenship. For women in particular, claims to citizenship were tied to a new ideal of “personhood” (renge), which was not free of moral requirements for female virtue. Even as the concubine abolition movement appealed to universal aspirations for liberation, most women’s associations excluded concubines, based on the moral stain of concubinage. The paper highlights, in particular, the ways that anti-concubinage activists described and addressed concubines, real and imagined speech by concubines, and the potential for dialogue in the urban media of the era. The paper concludes by examining a fictional concubine manifesto of this period, which, intended as a send-up of the anti-concubine movement, creates startling effects by ventriloquizing rights-claims on behalf of concubines.