1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Hoklo, Hakka and the Tyranny of Fashion: Footbinding in the Taiwan Censuses of 1905 and 1915.

Footbinding presents an enduring puzzle to students of gender roles and family relationships in late imperial Chinese society.  Recent studies all acknowledge that footbinding was not uniformly practiced, and that wide variations existed with respect to the proportion of girls binding, the ages binding began, and the degree of deformation binding caused.  Assessing such variation is fundamental to understanding the social and cultural pressures that encouraged binding in some circumstances and discouraged it in others.  But there is only one source, the early twentieth century censuses of Taiwan, that provides comprehensive data on age, marital status, occupation, ethnicity, and region for the bound footed population of women. This paper uses this unique source to document regional variation in the practice of binding within Taiwan, and analyze the factors contributing to its prevalence.   The pressures of conformity, and not competition between ethnic groups or economic factors, best explain high rates of binding.

Event Date: 
Friday, 7 December 2012 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm
John Shepherd
Speaker Title: 
Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Virginia