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Runaway Wives and their Matchmakers: Lower Class Women Networks in Beijing\u27s Courtyard Tenements, 1928-1949

By Zhao Ma


This article examines the formation and operation of lower class women’s social network in the ghettoized courtyard neighborhood in early twentieth-century Beijing. Drawing evidence from criminal case files, it argues that courtyard tenements provided a gendered urban space within which women formed, extended, and maintained a flexible and dynamic web of durable relationships. Motivated largely by individual circumstances and objectives, this neighborhood network remained personalized, individualized, and “ego-centered” The network did not come into existence for any type of political movements; nor did it entail wider female solidarity. But the physical geography of the courtyard tenements and the development of these neighborhood networks offered lower class women some immediate protections and buffers when they were under emotional, domestic or economic crisis. This article argues that these interpersonal relationships forged within a complex urban space was an important resource for women to rise themselves out of the intense state control and economic turmoil in the tumultuous decades of reform and revolution

Topics: runaway wives, matchmakers, women networks, Beijing, Courtyard Tenements
Publisher: DigitalCommons@Pace
Year: 2008
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Provided by: DigitalCommons@Pace

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