Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Issue 2, May 1999
Reading Notes
Krishna Sen & Maila Stivens, (eds)

Gender and Power in Affluent Asia

London and New York: Routledge,
1998, 323 pp.,
ISBN: 0-415-16471-0

Looking mainly, but not exclusively, at women from the new affluent classes of China and Southeast Asia, the contributors to this collection analyse the relationships and tensions between gender, class, globalised modernities and local dynamics pertaining to these regions. This, they do at the interwoven levels of intimacy, personal lives, class relations and the state. The argument here is that modernisation and globalisation in Asia is a multistranded and 'systematically gendered process.'[1] This process, which links local worlds and world systems, has consumption at its nexus whilst its locus is a constantly shifting and politicised private domain. In this context, gender relations are inseparable from class relations and are central to the making of the middle class and a locally specific modernity

Maila Stivens frames the argument of her theoretical introduction along the four themes of the new rich and affluent Asia, modernity and globalisation, state and class, and positionalities. Within this framework, Kathryn Robinson, Beverley Hooper, and Stephanie Fahey explore the outcomes for women of sudden local or national shifts to globalisation and modernity, respectively in the context of a southern Sulawesi village, rapidly globalising urban China and in doi moi [renovation] Vietnam.

Krishna Sen describes another paragmatic shift, one which promotes Indonesian professional urban women as the new icons of Indonesian modernity, often on the back of lower class women. Nerida Cook, examines the role played by middle class Thai women in the debates and policies about prostitution and the way their discourse on this topic closely parallels that of middle class, male discourse. Tackling the issue of traditional elite in the Philippines, Mina Roces examines the implications, at gender level, of what she terms 'kinship politics'.

Still pursuing, finally, the themes of the interaction between class, state and gender, modernity and globalisation, Nirmala PuruShotam for Singapore, Maila Stevens for Malaysia, and Anne McLaren through her case study from the rural Yangze delta, address the process of political and cultural invention of various forms of an 'Asian family' tradition, linked to the construction of new femininities and a specific Asian modernity. In this context, they also highlight the role of cultural and religious revivalisms.

Anne-Marie Medcalf


[1]1 Maila Stevens, 'Introduction' in Gender and Power in Affluent Asia, p. 1.


This paper was originally published in Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, with the assistance of Murdoch University.

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