National and Gender Power Negotiations in Harriett Low’s Lights and Shadows of a Macao Life

Abstract

Dictated by the cult of domesticity, American women's status in the mid-19th century remains largely the same from previous centuries: they are powerless politically and socio-economically. Harriett Low, one of the first two American women who lived in Macao in the mid-19th century, is expected to abide by the ideals of the True Womanhood in America. Colonialism, America's emerging power and her privileged role as a white woman among the racial and cultural Other in Macau have enabled her to test the boundaries of the cult of domesticity and establish an authoritative self whose vestiges can be traced in her multi-volume journals that document her life as a travel companion to her uncle and aunt in Macau. As the only unmarried young white woman in the Portuguese colony, Low is invited to many fancy social functions for the rich and powerful. Though she is still governed by the rules of her gender, she is temporarily rewarded with the opportunity to align herself with both American and European colonial power in Macao. Utilizing theories of the Self and the Other from Edward Said and Chandra Mohanty, I examine how Low's Other is the antithesis of her Self and therefore serves an accentual purpose in the conceptualization of the self. I also explore how Low's gaze of the Other is conditioned by her gender, national allegiance, social class, and how she negotiates her power as a woman in a male-dominated world in colonial Macao.



Author Information
Chingyen Mayer, Siena College, USA

Paper Information
Conference: ACCS2015
Stream: Gender studies / Feminist Theory

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