Women, Gender and Rural Development in China
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Women, Gender and Rural Development in China

Edited by Tamara Jacka and Sally Sargeson

This multidisciplinary book explores gender politics in the discourses and practices of development in rural China. The contributors – scholars in political science, anthropology, gender, development and Chinese studies – examine how differently positioned women are shaping rural development, and how development is affecting women’s capabilities and gender power relations.
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Chapter 8: Engendering the Local: Globalization, Development and the ‘Empowerment’ of Chinese Rural Women

Sharon R. Wesoky


Sharon R. Wesoky The objective of the Platform for Action, which is in full conformity with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, is the empowerment of all women. (United Nations 1995) INTRODUCTION The ‘empowerment’ of women is a central theme in contemporary global feminism and development discourse, as is evident in its centrality in the Platform for Action resulting from the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, adopted in 2000.1 Empowerment has moved from being a rhetorical flourish to becoming a concrete goal in the projects of many women’s organizations in both the developed and developing worlds. At the same time, feminist activists and scholars often highlight the negative effects on women of the neoliberal-led forces of globalization, especially women in the developing world (see e.g. Hawkesworth 2004). Yet, as Valentine Moghadam notes, there is ‘at least one positive aspect of globalization – the proliferation of women’s movements at the local level, the emergence of transnational feminist networks working at the global level, and the adoption of international conventions’ regarding the status of women (Moghadam 2005: 19). This caveat signals the need for interrogation of the more specific relationships between women’s empowerment and globalization. How does women’s empowerment work when the discourses and resources of globalized feminism encounter local-level power structures? In this chapter, I examine the potential for globalizing feminism to shape local-level, gendered power relationships in rural China. I begin 190...

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