Society and Identity
This presentation explores how women asserted their identities through representation that increased their visibility and affirm their sense of self. It discusses women as both desired objects and active consumers and how the two evolved together, particularly in graphic design and photographs that showcase design and modern lifestyle created between 1912 and 1949. How has consumption transformed women’s appearances and mentality? How have these changes affected the ways they perceived themselves? Did their self-images correspond with how others regard them? Did consumption impart a sense of respectability to the modern woman? Certain types of consumption are intangible such as banking; did participation in monetary exchange and accumulation empower women in the family and in the larger social structure as a whole? Can we argue that modern women introduced design, modern lifestyle and taste to Chinese culture as a new form of heritage that redefine their social status? The discussion will explore visual evidence such as advertising posters and photographs of daily life in the context of Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of cultural capital, which will enhance understanding on women’s cultural and social roles in the modern era, particularly as shoppers and active participants in public sphere like local vendors and corporate department stores.