Eastwards / Westwards: Which Direction for Gender Studies in the 21st Century?

Eastwards / Westwards: Which Direction for Gender Studies in the 21st Century?

Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 1 Oct 2007

Hardcover: 195 pages
Language: English

Coordinator: Clara Sarmento

ISBN-10: 1847183085
ISBN-13: 978-1847183088



1. “Construction and reaffirmation of social gender stereotypes through language use: The case of Hindi”
Anjali Pande, Bosch Institute for Cultures and Languages (India)

2. “Gender Equality in Ukaine: Between Declaration and Reality”
Alissa Tolstokorova, Kiev Centre for Gender Information and Education (Ukraine)

3. “Culture and Language: Reflections on Gender Equality in Kazakhstan”
Maria Helena Guimarães, Polytechnic Institute of Porto (Portugal)

4. “The Semiosis of the Feminine in Bangla Language”
Raahseed Mahmood and Ahmed Bokhtiar, University of New South Wales, Sydney (Australia)

5. “Marriage in China as an expression of a changing society”
Elisabetta Rosado David, University of Porto (Portugal) and Università Ca’Foscari, Venezia (Italy)

6. “The Other Woman in the Portuguese Overseas Space: The Case of Portuguese India”
Maria de Deus Manso, University of Évora (Portugal)

7. “Heading East this Time: Critical Readings on Gender in Southeast Asia”
Clara Sarmento, Polytechnic Institute of Porto (Portugal)

Eastwards / Westwards: Which Direction for Gender Studies in the XXIst Century? is a collection of essays which focus on themes and methods that characterize current research into gender in Asian countries in general.

In this collection, ideas derived from Gender Studies elsewhere in the world have been subjected to scrutiny for their utility in helping to describe and understand regional phenomena. But the concepts of Local and Global – with their discoursive productions – have not functioned as a binary opposition: localism and globalism are mutually constitutive and researchers have interrogated those spaces of interaction between the ‘self’ and the ‘other’, bearing in mind their own embeddedness in social and cultural structures and their own historical memory.

Contributors to this collection provided a critical transnational perspective on some of the complex effects of the dynamics of cultural globalization, by exploring the relation between gender and development, language, historiography, education and culture. We have also given attention to the ideological and rhetorical processes through which gender identity is constructed, by comparing textual grids and patterns of expectation. Likewise, we have discussed the role of ethnography, anthropology, historiography, sociology, fiction, popular culture and colonial and post-colonial sources in (re)inventing old/new male/female identities, their conversion into concepts and circulation through time and space.

This multicultural and trans-disciplinary selection of essays is totally written in English, fully edited and revised, therefore, it has a good potential for an immediate international circulation. This project may trace new paths and issues for discussion on what concerns the life, practices and narratives by and about women in Asia, as well as elsewhere in the present day global experience.

Academic readership:

Researchers, scholars, educators, graduate and post-graduate students, doctoral students and general non-fiction readers, with a special interest in Gender Studies, Asia, Colonial and Post-Colonial Literature, Anthropology, Cultural Studies, History, Historiography, Politics, Race, Feminism, Language, Linguistics, Power, Political and Feminist Agendas, Popular Culture, Education, Women’s Writing, Religion, Multiculturalism, Globalisation, Migration.

Chapter summary:

1. “Social Gender Stereotypes and their Implication in Hindi”, Anjali Pande, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.

This essay looks at the subtle ways in which gender identities are constructed and reinforced in India through social norms of language use. Language itself becomes a medium for perpetuating gender stereotypes, forcing its speakers to confirm to socially defined gender roles. Using examples from a classroom discussion about a film, this essay will highlight the underlying rigid male-female stereotypes in Indian society with their more obvious expressions in language. For the urban woman in India globalisation meant increased economic equality and exposure to changed lifestyles. On an individual level it also meant redefining gender relations and changing the hierarchy in man-­woman relationships. With the economic independence there is a heightened sense of liberation in all spheres of social life, a confidence to fuzz the rigid boundaries of gender roles. With the new films and media celebrating this liberated woman, who is ready to assert her sexual needs, who is ready to explode those long held notions of morality, one would expect that the changes are not just superficial. But as it soon became obvious in the course of a classroom discussion about relationships and stereotypes related to age, the surface changes can not become part of the common vocabulary, for the obvious reason that there is still a vast gap between the screen image of this new woman and the ground reality. Social considerations define the limits of this assertiveness of women, whereas men are happy to be liberal within the larger frame of social sanctions. The educated urban woman in India speaks in favour of change and the educated urban male supports her, but one just needs to scratch the surface to see the time tested formulae of gender roles firmly in place. The way the urban woman happily balances this emerging promise of independence with her gendered social identity, makes it necessary to rethink some aspects of looking at gender in a gradually changing, traditional society like India.

2. “The Linguistic Dimension of Gender Equality”, Alissa Tolstokorova, Kiev Centre for Gender Information and Education, Ukraine.

The subject-matter of this essay is gender justice in language which, as I argue, may be achieved through the development of a gender-related approach to linguistic human rights. The last decades of the 20th century, globally marked by a “gender shift” in attitudes to language policy, gave impetus to the social movement for promoting linguistic gender equality. It was initiated in Western Europe and nowadays is moving eastwards, as ideas of gender democracy progress into developing countries. But, while in western societies gender discrimination through language, or linguistic sexism, was an issue of concern for over three decades, in developing countries efforts to promote gender justice in language are only in their infancy. My argument is that to promote gender justice in language internationally it is necessary to acknowledge the rights of women and men to equal representation of their gender in language and speech and, therefore, raise a question of linguistic rights of the sexes. My understanding is that the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights in 1996 provided this opportunity to address the problem of gender justice in language as a human rights issue, specifically as a gender dimension of linguistic human rights.

3. “The Rebirth of an Old Language: Issues of Gender Equality in Kazakhstan”, Maria Helena Guimarães, Polytechnic Institute of Porto, Portugal.

The existing language situation in Kazakhstan, while peaceful, is not without some tension. We propose to analyze here some questions we consider relevant in the frame of cultural globalization and gender equality, such as: free from Russian imperialism, could Kazakhstan become an easy prey of Turkey’s “imperialist dream”? Could these traditionally Muslim people be soon facing the end of religious tolerance and gender equality, becoming this new old language an easy instrument for the infiltration in the country of fundamentalism (it has already crossed the boarders of Uzbekistan), leading to a gradual deterioration of its rich multicultural relations? The present structure of the language is still very fragile: there are three main dialects and many academics defend the re-introduction of the Latin alphabet, thus enlarging the possibility of cultural “contamination” by making the transmission of fundamentalist ideas still easier through neighbour countries like Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan (their languages belong to the same sub-group of Common Turkic), where the Latin alphabet is already in use, and where the ground for such ideas shown itself very fruitful.

4. “Construction of Womanhood in the Bengali Language of Bangladesh”, Raasheed Mahmood; University of New South Wales, Sydney.

The present essay attempts to explore the role of gender-based language differences and of certain markers that reveal the status accorded to women in Bangladesh. Discrimination against women, in its various forms, is endemic in communities and countries around the world, cutting across class, race, age, and religious and national boundaries. One cannot understand the problems of gender discrimination solely by referring to the relationship of power or authority between men and women. Rather one needs to consider the problem by relating it to the specific social formation in which the image of masculinity and femininity is constructed and reconstructed. Following such line of reasoning this essay will examine the nature of gender bias in the Bengali language of Bangladesh, holding the conviction that as a product of social reality language reflects the socio-cultural behaviour of the community who speaks it. This essay will also attempt to shed some light on the processes through which gender based language differences produce actual consequences for women, who become exposed to low self-esteem, depression and systematic exclusion from public discourse.

5. “Marriage in China as an expression of a changing society”, Elisabetta Rosado David, University of Porto, Portugal, and Università Ca’Foscari, Venezia, Italy.

In 29 April 2001, the new Marriage Law was promulgated in China. The first law on marriage was proclaimed in 1950 with the objective of freeing women from the feudal matrimonial system. With the second law, in 1981, values and conditions that had been distorted by the Cultural Revolution were recovered. Twenty years later, a new reform was started, intending to update marriage in the view of the social and cultural changes that occurred with Deng Xiaoping’s “open policy”. But the legal reform is only the starting point for this case-study. The rituals that are followed in the wedding ceremony are often hard to understand and very difficult to standardize, especially because China is a vast country, densely populated and characterized by several ethnic minorities. Two key words emerge from this issue: syncretism and continuity. On this basis, we can understand tradition in a better way, and analyse whether or not marriage, as every social manifestation, has evolved in harmony with Chinese culture.

6. “The Other Woman in the Portuguese Colonial Empire: The Case of Portuguese India”, Maria de Deus Manso, University of Évora, Portugal.

This essay researches the social, cultural and symbolic history of local women in the Portuguese Indian colonial enclaves. The normative Portuguese overseas history has not paid any attention to the “indigenous” female populations in colonial Portuguese territories, albeit the large social importance of these social segments largely used in matrimonial and even catholic missionary strategies. The first attempt to open fresh windows in the history of this new field was the publication of Charles Boxer’s referential study about Women in lberian Overseas Expansion, edited in Portugal only after the Revolution of 1975. After this research we can only quote some other fragmentary efforts. In fact, research about the social, cultural, religious, political and symbolic situation of women in the Portuguese colonial territories, from the XVI to the XX century, is still a minor historiographic field. In this essay we discuss this problem and we study colonial representations of women in the Portuguese Indian enclaves, mainly in the territory of Goa, using case studies methodologies.

7. “Heading East this Time: Critical Readings on Gender in Southeast Asia”, Clara Sarmento, Polytechnic Institute of Porto, Portugal.

This essay intends to discuss some critical readings of fictional and theoretical texts on gender condition in Southeast Asian countries. Nowadays, many texts about women in Southeast Asia apply concepts of power in unusual areas. Traditional forms of gender hegemony have been replaced by other powerful, if somewhat more covert, forms. We will discuss some universal values concerning conventional female roles as well as the strategies used to recognize women in political fields traditionally characterized by male dominance. Female empowerment will mean different things at different times in history, as a result of culture, local geography and individual circumstances. Empowerment needs to be perceived as an individual attitude, but it also has to be facilitated at the macro­level by society and the State. Gender is very much at the heart of all these dynamics, strongly related to specificities of historical, cultural, ethnic and class situatedness, requiring an interdisciplinary transnational approach.


“Books to be reviewed”, The Journal of China in Comparative Perspective, SOAS, University of London.
Asian Studies Institute Newsletter , 19 de Junho de 2008, Victoria University of Wellington, Nova Zelândia.
Barbara Watson Andaya, Asian Studies Program, University of Hawai’i.
Gerald Locklin, Department of English, California State University, Long Beach, e University of Southern California.
Webpages International Convention of Asia Scholars, ICAS; Standing Group on Women and Politics, University of Essex; China in Comparative Perspective Global Network, Global China Institute.


Hsin-I Cheng (Santa Clara University, USA), Women and Language, vol. 31, nº 2, Department of Humanities, Michigan Technological University, 2008, p. 58.


Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam;
McMaster University, Canadá;
London School of Economics and Political Science;
University of Pennsylvania;
University of British Columbia, Canadá;
Stanford University;
Library of Congress, USA;
British Library;
British Library of Political & Economic Science;
Open Library, UK;
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign;
Gender Equity Education Committee, National Taiwan Normal University;
University of Chicago;
Truman State University, Missouri, USA;
Massachusetts Institute of Technology;
Villanova University


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