Refiguring Women, Colonialism, and Modernity in Burma, by Chie Ikeya, presents the first study of one of the most prevalent and critical topics of public discourse in colonial Burma: the woman of the khit kala—“the woman of the times”—who burst onto the covers and pages of novels, newspapers, and advertisements in the 1920s. Educated and politicized, earner and consumer, “Burmese” and “Westernized,” she embodied the possibilities and challenges of the modern era, as well as the hopes and fears it evoked. In Refiguring Women, Ikeya interrogates what these shifting and competing images of the feminine reveal about the experience of modernity in colonial Burma. She marshals a wide range of hitherto unexamined Burmese language sources to analyze both the discursive figurations of the woman of the khit kala and the choices and actions of actual women who—whether pursuing higher education, becoming political, or adopting new clothes and hairstyles—unsettled existing norms and contributed to making the woman of the khit kala the privileged idiom for debating colonialism, modernization, and nationalism.
“Refiguring Women not only marks a milestone in Burmese historiography but makes a significant contribution to our appreciation of how ‘being modern‘ was understood in colonized societies. Deftly integrating visual and literary representations of Burmese women with the experiences of a people living under colonial control, this pioneering study explores previously untapped sources to provide new insights on the entangled relations between gender, colonialism, and modernity.” —Barbara Andaya, University of Hawai‘i, Manoa
Southeast Asia: Politics, Meaning, and Memory
January 2011 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3461-6 / $45.00 (CLOTH)