Judging the Frontier: The Traffic in Women and the Local Order in the Nineteenth Century Southwest China
Hong Song (Stanford History) will give a talk titled Judging the Frontier: The Traffic in Women and the Local Order in the Nineteenth Century Southwest China.
Incorporated into the Qing imperial administration in 1728, Mianning County in Southwest China in the nineteenth century remained a dynamic yet unstable frontier with difficult geography, fluid ethnicities, and conflicts arising from contrasting cultural and legal practices and ideas. Under such circumstances, local women were often exposed to the dangers of being abducted and trafficked. Relying on legal cases from the Mianning County Archive, this paper investigates how women managed to survive in the face of this risk of abduction and the ways that the local state strived to maintain social and legal order. These attempts to resolve conflicts and disputes over the whereabouts and ownership of women reveal the extent and limits of the state power and illustrate the workings of a specific local order founded on power negotiations between multi-ethnic institutions and communities. This paper will discuss how the daily lives of women in an unsettled frontier region intersected with and coproduced the dynamic power relations between the local state, social institutions, and communal structures.