Imagined concubinage refers to fictional representations of urban marriage and romantic love in crisis in early 1980s Taiwan by women writers in short stories, novellas, and novels featuring female protagonists. This article's main question arises from a Taiwan context wherein a populist feminist antisex sentiment necessitates renewed understanding of its cultural-historical lineage and affinities. One aspect of feminist antisex sentiment is embedded in an imagined concubinage against which an exemplary wife-in-monogamy envisions continuous battle. To the extent that this cultural and psychic battle is ongoing in Taiwan today, I argue that wife-in-monogamy feels as if it can never be fully installed as a structure of feeling, and that the very installment of such a structure of feeling entails reactivating in different ways an imagined concubinage (imagined to the extent that it is no longer viable as a legal institution, though is it not extinct as practice in both privileged and nonprivileged forms), against which an embattled wife-in-monogamy is sculpted in relief. The wife-in-monogamy in such a cultural-social milieu is thus constitutively produced as always at risk.

Fictional representations are one site where we may reread how status shame gets recoded as new sexual stigma. Feminist fictions invented a new subject as they constructed her for a rapidly changing Taiwan, pointing to how middle-class femininity needed to be reconstituted toward envisioning a gender-equal family-nation. Status shame for the wife-in-monogamy becomes reconstituted into stigmatic sex in new emergent social subjects and practices, such as mistresses and live-in migrant domestic maids, sex workers and predatory single urban professional women, adulterous women and men, promiscuous sex, commercial sex, and nonnormative and queer sex. Figuring the latter through recycled concubinage imaginaries places a limitation on the would-be modern feminine subject, programmatically warning her against what she cannot and must not become.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.