Chapter

Family and Gender in Famine

Kathryn Edgerton-Tarpley

in Tears from Iron

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780520253025
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520934221 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520253025.003.0008
Family and Gender in Famine

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Observers of the North China Famine were not unique in selecting images of women to represent the horror of mass starvation. In her work on literary representations of the Great Irish Famine and the twentieth-century Bengali famine, Margaret Kelleher demonstrates that famine literature represents a very old tradition in which images of women are used as “bearers of meaning” because they have great power to move the reader or spectator. Kelleher argues that the feminized images of starvation used repeatedly in Irish famine accounts, such as that of a famished mother offering a dry breast to her already dead baby or a starving child sucking at the breast of its dead mother, signify the failure of sustenance, and thus express the famine's deepest horror. Local observers in late-Qing Shanxi employed a different array of feminized images to express the misery brought by famine.

Keywords: mass starvation; North China Famine; Margaret Kelleher; famine literature; feminized images; Irish famine; late-Qing Shanxi

Chapter.  11462 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Asian History

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