This essay engages with the text The Birth of Chinese Feminism, which centers primarily on the writings of He-Yin Zhen, one of the earliest Chinese feminists, produced at the turn of the twentieth century and translated into English for the first time. He-Yin offered China and the world a unique and forceful theory of women’s enslavement through critiques of conditions in China (past and present), Japan, and contemporary Europe. John’s essay offers a reading of these writings and He-Yin’s arguments in contrast to other Chinese thinkers, as well as the theoretical claims made by the editors of the book. It does so in relation to comparable questions from colonial and contemporary Indian feminism. While endorsing the dangers posed by the current dominance of US academe in terms of its capacity to crowd out alternate concepts and thinking about feminism, especially from colonial spaces, this essay calls for a postnational engagement with the specificities of feminist concepts and vocabularies, whether in the early twentieth century or the present.

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