Beyond the Inner Quarters：Women and Bureaucratic Life in Ming China
Thursday, November 9, 2023
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Bunche Hall, Rm 10383
This talk is based on Ying Zhang’s current book project on jailing as an administrative-legal procedure in Ming bureaucratic discipline. Upon the first glance, women in jailed officials’ households—mothers, wives, and concubines—acted to protect the interests of their families. Historical sources left by the literati and official historians often portray them in this way. Many of these women indeed could not afford or imagine a course of action beyond such a pattern. They were aware of the deep entanglement of their behaviors and their husbands’ professional lives. They took advantage of their perceived vulnerability to intervene in the jailing of their male family members. Some of them even sacrificed their lives for this cause. In the Ming context, this image of virtuous women made it possible for the patriarch, vulnerable in the harsh environment in incarceration and in the uncertainties generated by jailing, to claim masculinity. However, women in jailed officials’ families also demonstrated legal agency, knowledge of the administrative-legal procedures, and political skills. When acknowledging their situated agency, we should also recognize the reality their actions did not always align with patriarchal interests.
Ying Zhang （PhD in History and Women’s Studies, University of Michigan）is an associate professor of history at The Ohio State University. Her research focuses on premodern Chinese political institutions, literati culture, family, and gender. Her current research examines the intersection of bureaucracy, law, and society in the Ming dynasty. Zhang is author of Confucian Image Politics：Masculine Morality in Seventeenth-Century China （University of Washington Press, 2016）and Religion and Prison Art in Ming China（1368-1644）：Creative Environment, Creative Subjects （Brill Research Perspectives series, 2020）. Her work has been supported by fellowship opportunities at the American Academy in Berlin, Institute for Advanced Study（Princeton）, the Institute of Advanced Study at Durham University（UK）, and the Williams Andrews Clark Memorial Library at UCLA.
Sponsor（s）: Center for Chinese Studies