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Kristeva and Feral - China, Women and the Symbolic - An Interview With Julia Kristeva

Kristeva and Feral - China, Women and the Symbolic - An Interview With Julia Kristeva

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China, Women and the Symbolic An Interview with Julia KristevaAuthor(s): Josette Féral, Julia Kristeva, Penny KritzmanSource:
SubStance,
Vol. 5, No. 13 (1976), pp. 9-18Published by: University of Wisconsin PressStable URL:
Accessed: 06/12/2009 16:11
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CHINA,WOMENAND THE SYMBOLICAn interviewwithJulia KristevabyJosette FeralJ.F. In China we areparticularlystruckbyattemptsmadesince1912torelegatewomentoapositionmore or less in thebackground.Whathistoricalconditionsproducedthissituation? WhathasMao's role beenintransforminghispredomi-natelymatriarchalociety,where in thepastwomenwere lookeduponas slavesor(inConfucius'words)littlemen?J.K.WithinAncient ChineseSocietythere wasprobablyaverydevelopedandcomplexmatriarchy.Itisinterestingto see howanthropologistsdeducedthis.Duringourtripweobservedon severaloccasionsvariousexcavationsights.Atonesightinparticularwe sawa female skeletonin the midst oftheexcavation,sur-roundedbyother femaleskeletons,suggestingthedominant andpoliticallyactive role womenmayhaveplayedinsociety.Modernanthropologistsareincontroversyabout thistheory.Granet and others like him whoadoptapointofviewverydifferentfromthatof thestructuralanthropologyfor instance(Levi-Strauss)who refusesthisinterpretation.Ihavebeenunableto take apositionandleaveit tofemaleanthropologiststo examinethe situationmoreclosely.Nevertheless onecannotdenythatAncientChina was ahighlydevelopedmatri-linearand matrilocalsociety.Thiswe discovern certaincodesdatingas far backasthe first millenium as well as inother fortuitousplaces.Forexample,themarriageof ayoung girlwithhermaternaluncle(apractisewhich existeduntiltheLiberation)sevidence of asurvivancefmatrilineartructure.However,wemusttakeinto consideration thatfor allChinese,Confucianistornot,thetwoideologies,Confucianism andTaoism,functionsimultaneously;onemaybeConfucist,thatistosay,patriarchal,moralist,andritualistic,withrespecttorelationshipsofproduction,politics,andlifeoutsidethehome;but,insidethehome,withrespecttowomen,especiallyinregardtosexual relation-ships,oneobserves thesurvival and evenpermanenceofTaoism,whichcanbeinterpretedasasortofdeviatedreflection ofmatrilinearociety.J.F.What nMao'slifeorreadingcouldhavebeenresponsibleorthis realization?J.K. Sincethebeginningof thecenturyMao and otherrevolutionaries,notonlytheSocialists but theChinesebourgeoisie,seemtohave been influencedbytheinternalstructure of Taoist and anti-Confuciandoctrine,and itis the latter whichwasresponsiblefor thedevelopmentof the Chinesematrilinealradition. Fromtheearly partofthebourgeoisrevolutionatthe end of the nineteenthcentury,Sub-StanceN?13,19769
 
Josette Feraluntilthe startofthe twentiethcentury,manywomenparticipatedn thisrevolu-tionarymovement.Thesewomen,echoingthesuffragettesoftheWest,werealsogreatlyinfluencedbyprotestantmissionarieswho took careof theyoungChinese invarious schools.The ChinesesuffragettessupportedSun-Yat-Sen,andrepresentingvariouspoliticalorders,ntervened ntheChineseNationalAssembly,requestingclarification oftheterms ofthenew lawof thenewbourgeoisrepublicandof itsstand onequalityof race and sex.Therace issueisstill alivetoday.Equalityof thesexesalthoughstillunresolvedsusuallytabled.Asthemovementcontinued,anumber ofsocialists,especiallyMao,becameinvolvedin thefemininestruggle.InMao'spersonalifehewasverysensitivetothefemaleproblemwhichisprobablydue tohisfamily background.On theonehand,hehadaConfucianfatherwhowasverystrict andritualistic,withwhomMaodid notusuallyagree,andon theother hand hehadaBuddhistmother withwhom hewasmoreintimate.Duringantiquityand untiltheriseofSocialism,BuddhismandTaoism were therefugeofwomen in China.Buddhism,contrarytoConfucianism,avoidsrepressionofthe 'second'sex,asdoes Taoism(althoughin awaydifferentfromBuddhism).Personaland historical circumstanceshaddevelopednMaoasensitivitytoquestionsraisedbywomen.Furthermore,Maopursuedhisstudies atHunanUniversity,theuniversityrenowned foritsreputationforactivestudent feminists and foritsactive centerofSocialist ChineseFeminists.AlsoMao'sChinesephilosophy professor,influ-encedaswellbyWesternLibertariandeashadwrittenanumberof articles on"the ChineseFamilyVs.theConfucistfamily"-hisdaughtersMao'sfirstwife.These wereotherexperienceswhichifyouwillaffected Mao'swayofthinking.Hisfeministorientationdatesbacktoabout1919,emergingbefore theevolutionofhisMarxistphilosophy.Hisfeminist ideas canbe foundintextshe wrote onthesuicideofwomen;thesetextsarepracticallyunknownexcept bySinospecialists.Whatwerethehistorical reasons forwritingthese texts?Itseemsthataftersomedevelopmentintheliberation ofwomenwithinthebourgeoisrevolution,thewordspread.But atthattime,societywasnotreadytoaccepttheliberationofwomen.Whathappenedthen wasthatwomen who lefttheirhusbands,orrefused tomarrythehusbandchosenbythefamilyfoundthemselvesdisapprovedofby society,andwithoutsomekindofindividualisticdeology,were driventosuicide. Mao discussestheirplightinsomeofhis articles.Asamatter offacttheseChineseWomenarenowbeingstudiedbyagroupofAmericanwomenwhohavealreadypublishedabook abouttheirfindings(MichiganPapersnChineseStudies). (Perhapsitwould bebettertoread thebook,ratherthantolistentome.)J.F.Youmentiontheprofeministattitudeof Mao,apparentsincethebeginningofhiscareer.Thisattitudeseems tobeperpetuatedbythepresentcultural rev-olutionspreadinginChina.Becauseamongotherthingsthisrevolutionis
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