Re-Presenting Women’s Identities: Recognition and Representation of Rural Chinese Women

  • Sharon R. Wesoky


The above slogan captures the mission of a nongovernmental organization (NGO) known as Nongjianü in its attempts to promote the social development of China’s rural women in the post-Mao era. Nongjianü, or the Cultural Development Center for Rural Women (Rural Women), promotes particularistic modes of recognition, representation, and identity-formation among its target group (Nongjianü, 2003: ii). This chapter explains how such promotion happens. It first examines how rural women can be understood as a “minority” in mainland China, especially in relation to hegemonic discursive formations in Chinese society today. Then it introduces Nongjianü as an NGO advocating for rural women in China since the 1990s. This study looks particularly at how Nongjianü generates recognition, representation, and identity for rural women in a way that is distinctive in its approach. It argues that Nongjianü and its subjects mutually constitute an identity for rural women finding assets in their marginality. Together they create a “pragmatic politics of the present moment” that locates in these women liberating and empowering possibilities quite distinct from any sort of utopian solution to the dilemmas they face.


Cultural Development Rural Woman Filial Piety Rural Girl China Development 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Brysk, Alison, and Gershon Shafir, eds. 2004. People Out of Place. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Chan, Joseph. 2003. “Confucian Attitudes toward Ethical Pluralism.” In Richard Madsen and Tracy B. Strong, eds. The Many and the One: Religious and Secular Perspectives on Ethical Pluralism in the Modern World, 129–153. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Chen, Hu. 2004. “Tuoqi xinling de taiyang” (Supporting the sunshine of the soul). Nongjianü (Rural women) (June): 41.Google Scholar
  4. Chen, Kuan-Hsing. 1998. “The Decolonization Question.” In Kuan-Hsing Chen, ed. Trajectories: Inter-Asia Cultural Studies. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. China Development Brief. 2001. 250 Chinese NGOs: Civil Society in the Making. Beijing: China Development Brief.Google Scholar
  6. China Development Brief. 2006. “Profile: Veteran Fighter for ‘Ugly Duckling’ That Serves Rural Women.” China Development Brief. Retrieved on April 3, 2006 from
  7. Ding, X. L. 1994. The Decline of Communism in China: Legitimacy Crisis, 1977–1989. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Di Stefano, Christine. 2003. “Feminist Attitudes toward Ethical Pluralism.” In Madsen and Strong, eds. The Many and the One, 271–300.Google Scholar
  9. Gaetano, Arianne M., and Tamara Jacka, eds. 2004. On the Move: Women in Rural-to-Urban Migration in Contemporary China. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Gladney, Dru C. 2004. Dislocating China. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  11. Jacka, Tamara. 1997. Women’s Work in Rural China: Change and Continuity in an Era of Reform. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Jacka, Tamara. 2006. “Approaches to Women and Development in Rural China.” Journal of Contemporary China 15, 585–602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Judd, Ellen R. 2002. The Chinese Women’s Movement between State and Market. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Kipnis, Andrew. 2006. “Suzhi: A Keyword Approach.” China Quarterly 186, 295–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lei, Guang. 2003. “Rural Taste, Urban Fashions: The Cultural Politics of Rural/Urban Difference in Contemporary China.” Positions 11, 613–646.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Li, Danke. 2004. “Gender Inequality in Education in Rural China.” In Tao Jie, Zheng Bijun, and Shirley L. Mow, eds. Holding Up Half the Sky: Chinese Women Past, Present, and Future. New York: Feminist Press.Google Scholar
  17. Luo, Zhaohong. 2004a. “Aixin tuoqi de rensheng” (Love’s support of human life). Nongjianü (December): 41.Google Scholar
  18. Luo, Zhaohong. 2004b. “Hao da yi ke shu: Geji dangwei, zhengfu, quntuan zuzhi guan’ai Nongjianü xuexiao diandi jishi” (A very big tree: A chronicle of each level of the party, government, and mass organizations showing loving care for the Nongjianü school). Nongjianü (July): 41–42.Google Scholar
  19. Luo, Zhaohong. 2004c. “Women ye zai shou huozhe ‘ai’” (We are also harvesting “love”). Nongjianü ( January): 42–43.Google Scholar
  20. Luo, Zhaohong. 2004d. “Yunnan ‘Jinhua’ chu zhan jing cheng” (The beginning of Yunnan “Golden Flowers” opening in the capital city). Nongjianü (May): 42–43.Google Scholar
  21. Madsen, Richard, and Tracy B. Strong. 2003. “Introduction: Three Forms of Ethical Pluralism.” In Madsen and Strong, eds. The Many and the One, 1–21.Google Scholar
  22. Nongjianü. 2003. Cultural Development Center for Rural Women. Beijing.Google Scholar
  23. Nongjianü. 2004. “Fazhan cong gaishan fengxianzhe de tiaojian kaishi” (Development from starting to improve the conditions of those who offer tributes). Nongjianü (October): 40.Google Scholar
  24. Nongjianü Editor. 2004a. “Falu bangzhu” (Legal aid). Nongjianü (January): 26.Google Scholar
  25. Nongjianü Editor. 2004b. “Nongjia zhifu baitong: He nongmin pengyou shuo jiju xinlihua” (Almanac of the rural becoming rich: Speaking some innermost thoughts with our peasant friends). Nongjianü (January): 46.Google Scholar
  26. Nonini, Donald M., and Aihwa Ong. 1997. “Chinese Transnationalism as an Alternative Modernity.” In Aihwa Ong and Donald Nonini, eds. Ungrounded Empires: The Cultural Politics of Modern Chinese Transnationalism, 3–33. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  27. Ong, Aihwa. 1997. “Chinese Modernities: Narratives of Nation and of Capitalism.” In Ong and Nonini, eds. Ungrounded Empires, 171–202.Google Scholar
  28. Ong, Aihwa, and Donald M. Nonini. 1997. “Toward a Cultural Politics of Diaspora and Transnationalism.” In Ong and Nonini, eds. Ungrounded Empires, 323–332.Google Scholar
  29. Pateman, Carole. 2003. “Feminism and the Varieties of Ethical Pluralism.” In Madsen and Strong, eds. The Many and the One, 301–308.Google Scholar
  30. Pei, Minxin. 2003. “Rights and Resistance: The Changing Contexts of the Dissident Movement.” In Elizabeth J. Perry and Mark Selden, eds. Chinese Society: Change, Conflict, and Resistance. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Shue, Vivienne. 2004. “Legitimacy Crisis in China.” In Peter Hays Gries and Stanley Rosen, eds. State and Society in 21st-Century China, 24–49. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Taylor, Charles. 1994. “The Politics of Recognition.” In David Theo Goldberg, ed. Multiculturalism: A Critical Reader. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  33. Wang, Hui. 2003. China’s New Order: Society, Politics, and Economy in Transition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Wesoky, Sharon R. 2002. Chinese Feminism Faces Globalization. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  35. Xu, Rong. 2004a. “Buyi guniang: Ni hui you xiwang de” (Puyi girls: You can have hope). Nongjianü (February): 38–39.Google Scholar
  36. Xu, Rong. 2004b. “Huanhuan xixi guo danian” (Happily spending the New Year). Nongjianü (February): 4–5.Google Scholar
  37. Xu, Rong. 2004c. “Huanteng de Shangquyang cun” (Jubilant Shangquyang village). Nongjianü (August): 43.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Siu-Keung Cheung, Joseph Tse-Hei Lee, and Lida V. Nedilsky 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sharon R. Wesoky

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations