Guide to Women's Studies in China

By Gail Hershatter; Emily Honig et al. | Go to book overview

THREE
Into the Postcolonial Era: Women's Studies in Hong Kong

HON-MING YIP

Women's issues have become subject matters of serious academic research in Hong Kong since the late 1970s, along with the development of a local social movement to promote women's awareness and status. Although the specific issues might be new, this attention to women's situation is not, nor is the mutual interaction of research and activism. In the 1920s and 1930s, activists in the campaign against child slavery and the servitude of meizai (young female bond servants; muijai in Cantonese) were also researchers of women's problems and advocates of social research for the advancement of women's welfare and rights. Works published then, such as H. L. Haslewoods' Child Slavery in Hong Kong ( 1930) and Mai Meisheng Fandui xubi shilüe (Outline history of the movement against the possession of young female bond servants) ( 1933) are still cited by contemporary researchers as useful references. They represent early efforts of expatriate and Chinese Christians and social reformers to challenge the practice of human trafficking and Hong Kong's colonial policy of nonintervention in the Chinese patriarchal tradition of parents' prerogative to sell their offspring. These works recorded conditions of female members of the lower classes in Hong Kong as perceived by social campaigners who had tried to save them. They rely upon basic statistics and general descriptions of institutional development.

In the postwar period, the social sciences flourished, and social science research methods were widely applied to ethnographic studies of Hong Kong society. To anthropologists such as E. Anderson, M. Freedman, H. Baker, E. Johnson, A. Sankar, J. Stockard, M. Topley, B. Ward, J. Watson, and R. Watson, whose fieldwork in Hong Kong's New Territories concerned issues of marriage, family, kinship, folklore, and women's life, the territory

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