Discussion questions

Here are discussion questions for use in thinking about Bray (See previous post).

Question #1: How can technology help us understand culture?

Contextualization for Question #1: Bray suggests that technology “shapes and transmits ideological traditions” (2) and produces women (15) (or people, to take a broader approach). I believe she demonstrates her points clearly as they pertain to China throughout the rest of her book. What examples can we come up with of how technology shapes our ideology here and now? How can we apply the framework Bray gives us to the work we are currently doing?

Question #2: How do physical spaces construct the ways in which we construct ourselves?

Contextualization for Question #2: I’m looking specifically at the first section of Bray’s book, and in particular her footnote on Bourdieu on page 57: “Bourdieu identifies the house as a key mechanism in the inculcation of habitus, a site where symbolic relations are encoded in the everday and naturalized as physical patterns of behavior.”

Question #3: In what ways do we privelege certain roles among the many roles we fulfill? What does technology have to do with this?

Contextualization for Question #3: Bray discusses how the role of wife was primary in Chinese imperial culture to the role of (biological) mother. (Wives could “appropriate” the children of their husbands’ concubines or maids.)

Question #4: Why do we claim things as products of Western technology? Does this limit our understanding of said technologies?

Contextualization for Question #4: “A few years ago Basim Musallam castigated demographers for assuming that effective birth control was a product of Western modernity” (292). The printing press and acupuncture are other technologies that have been appropriated and even claimed.

Question #5: What are good sources for gynotechnic study?

Contextualization for Question #5: Bray mentions “written and material texts” on page 372, and throughout the book she references household account, works of art, and census data. What other means do we have for “providing a new perspective on gender and its place in the social order as well as a way of getting beyond what written texts alone can tell us”? (373)


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