Courtesy of Cornell University

Xian Wang will lead the second “Engendering China” Series Talk.

March 5, 2023

“Engendering China” Series Talk Highlights Victims of Japanese Exploitation of Women During World War II

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To coincide with the start of Women’s History Month, Prof. Xian Wang, East Asian languages and cultures, University of Notre Dame, is delivering a talk on Monday titled “Her Voice: Recounting Japanese Military Sexual Slavery in Chinese Literature and Film.” Sponsored by the East Asia Program, the Cornell Contemporary China Initiative is hosting a series this spring with the theme “Engendering China” — Wang’s talk is the second in this series. 

The “Engendering China” series explores the paradoxical gender relations of Chinese society, particularly the power dynamics from ancient times to the present. They are co-sponsored by various departments and organizations from the University such as Department of Asian Studies, Cornell Center for Social Sciences, Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, the Department of History, The School of Industrial and Labor Relation’s Global Labor Institute, The Levinson China and Asia Pacific Studies Program and Society for the Humanities.

Prof. Mara Yue Du, history, is the faculty member hosting the series this semester. Du is a Himan Brown Faculty Fellow from the department of history, with her research focusing on contemporary China and gender studies. 

In her talk, Wang will discuss the portrayal of “comfort women” in Chinese media. The term refers to the thousands of women who were coerced into forced sexual slavery during World War II by the Japanese military. According to Wang, the stigma surrounding sexual assault victims in the Chinese society — and a reminder of the national pain suffered during the war — is what kept the stories of these women a secret for decades.

Wang is exploring how the testimonies of these women can be used to integrate their experiences into society so that their stories of suffering during the war are remembered and acknowledged. 

Wang earned her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon and now focuses her research on contemporary China and gender relations. She is currently working on two book projects. The first is titled Flesh and Stone: Negotiating Memories of Chinese Female Revolutionary Martyrs, and the second one, titled Producing Socialist China: The Aestheticization of Labor in Seventeen-Year Literature, focuses on labor portrayals during the 1950s and 1960s. 

The talk will be held from 4:45 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. on Monday at Kaufman Auditorium in Goldwin Smith Hall.