Society and Identity
In recent history, woman’s visibility in public increased dramatically because of rapid changes in social, political, and cultural environment. As a result, empowering images of women appeared frequently in art and popular media that challenge conventional perception of woman as wives, mothers and servants. This is especially the case in Asian cultures where some countries had to adapt to new political and economic systems while others transformed themselves in the post-colonial era. The main questions addressed by this panel aim to explore new types of female image in Asia in the context of social, cultural and political transformations and how women are empowered through distinctive manifestations of visual and material culture. Papers will discuss how works of art and particular concepts of visual culture invariably embody new conceptualizations of womanhood and to what extent they reflect how traditional values and heritage, modern subjectivity, nationalism, western modernity, gender stereotypes, and the self have been redefined.
Roslyn Hammers examines how the Pictures of Cotton (18th century) revises feminine labor in China that led to an early formulation of a “modernist” objectifying gaze that was deployed to survey the production of commodities and those who produce them. Sawako Chang discusses Keisai Eisen’s (1791–1848) sexually-charged bijin-ga that encouraged women of this period in Japan to negotiate their own intentions with prescribed female roles in society in order to have new and better life opportunities. Sandy Ng explores advertising posters and photographs created between 1912 and 1949 in China that were instrumental in women’s assertion of identities through increasing visibility and affirmation of the self. Silvia Fok scrutinizes self-narratives by two Hong Kong female artists whose works focus on family relations, which foreground the artists’ own identities and how they deal with gender issues in society. Panelists will discuss how representation helps women to redefine their identities and finding the self through imagery as a source of empowerment.