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Gendered Advertising in China: What History Do Images Tell?

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image of European Journal of East Asian Studies

Visual culture used to be seen as a 'distraction from the serious business of text and history' while images can in fact also be seen as a locus of cultural and historical change. This paper addresses the issue of using visual sources in the construction of a historical narrative in Chinese social history. Through a survey of gendered advertising images from one important Shanghai newspaper, the Shenbao, in 1931, presented in the form of 'visual itineraries', the paper turns towards the moment of consuming the image. It attempts to recapture and draw conclusions from the visual everyday experience in and of this modern city.

It will become clear that just looking at images focuses the eye. Prejudiced preconceptions about gender and gender relations (such as 'men do not care for children', 'women are the weaker sex', 'women occur more frequently in illustrated advertisements') can all be negated or questioned by the study of images. Thus, through visual perception and visual reflection it may be possible to challenge and redefine the conventional reading of textual materials so as to bring out new perspectives, new modes of questioning and new conceptions, to open up fresh possibilities of research.

Affiliations: 1: University of Heidelberg


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