Ahern, Emily M.. The power and pollution of Chinese women

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Publication Information


Title: The power and pollution of Chinese women

Published in: Studies in Chinese society, edited by Arthur P. Wolf

Published By: Studies in Chinese society, edited by Arthur P. Wolf Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1978. 269-290, 362-363 p.

By line: Emily M. Ahern

HRAF Publication Information: New Haven, Conn.: HRAF, 1995. Computer File

Culture: Taiwan Hokkien (AD05)

Subjects: Gender status (562); Purification and atonement (783); Ethnoanatomy (826); Menstruation (841); Childbirth (844);

Abstract: This essay considers the polluting or dangerous powers of women in the light of women's ambiguous social position and Taiwanese notions of ideal family structure. The key problem appears to be not one of popular belief in the inherent inferiority of women per se, but rather women's close association with substances that are ritually unclean (e.g., menstrual blood), and their status as outsiders in a kinship system focused on male lines of descent. Conditions in which women are thought to be dangerous or anomalous, such as during pregnancy, childbirth, and widowhood, are discussed in detail along with more general Chinese notions of clean and unclean bodily substances.

Document Number: 29

Document ID: ad05-029

Document Type: Essay

Language: English

Note: Includes bibliography

Field Date: 1969-1972

Evaluation: Ethnologist-5

Analyst: M. A. Marcus

Coverage Date: not specified

Coverage Place: Ch'i-nan village, Taipei hsien, Hai-shan region, Taiwan

LCSH: Taiwanese


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