Accepted paper:

Social body of Chinese woman: exclusion and inclusion of female corporeality from/in the house in Malaysia

Authors:

Ryoko Sakurada (Ikuei Junior College)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how the body of Chinese woman is treated in the domestic sphere in contemporary Malaysia. A woman’s body is often considered as ‘problematic’. Nevertheless, the continuity of the house and lineage is maintained not only by male existence but also female corporeality.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores how the body of Chinese woman is excluded and included from/in the domestic sphere, where patriarchal ideology strongly affected, in the context of contemporary Malaysia. Under patriarchal social system, a woman's body is often associated with 'otherness' or 'problem' due to various bodily aspects such as child bearing and menstruation, and excluded as being covered, locked, and disfigured from the realm of men. In this way, women are closely associated with the body. Especially bleeding women are considered as highly 'problematic. This logic acquires widespread perception that women are much closer to nature thus inferior while men are closer to culture thus superior. In Malaysia, most Chinese women who are in the menstruation periods are strictly prohibited to participate in the temple rituals. Also pregnant women are advised not to participate in Chinese New Year's ancestral prayer, which is the most important social event of the year. This folk practice vividly shows that despite the fact that menstruation and pregnancy are purely biological, these bodily aspects are perceived as something beyond biology, rather socio-cultural. Woman's body is thus often considered something ought to be excluded from the social realm. Nevertheless, even patriarchal Chinese relation never exists perpetually without female fertility. The continuity of the house and lineage is maintained not only by male existence but also female corporeality. In this way, this paper examines both dimension of exclusiveness and inclusiveness of female corporeality from/in the house in order to rethink social body of woman.

panel P059
Anthropology through the experience of the physical body