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Origin Story of the One-child Generation: China’s “Missing” and Global (Non) Subject

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This paper delves into the structural and theoretical relationship between the One-child generation (O-generation) and their origin story: the ‘missing girls’. I contend that the narrative of the “missing girls” only tells part of the story, as those deemed undesirable, disposable, and non-persons are not just infants identified as female. This means situate the “missing” within the violent “surplussing” of populations in post-socialist China, alongside the construction of global “other” (non)subjects. Furthermore, the “missing” predicts the precarity of the present. Inspired by Qiong Wang’s documentary "All about My Sisters," and Prune Nourry’s "The Terracotta Daughters Project," I contemplate the structural link between the living and the deceased, presence and absence, as well as annihilated and surviving bodies. I reflect on how the living as living with and through the departed, and how subject is molded by the non-subject. I conceptualize the “One Child” as emblematic of all—simultaneously alive and deceased, figurative and ghostly, neither strictly male nor female, singular yet manifold, and both subject and non-subject. The specter of the “missing” looms over the O-generation, unsettling the foundations of hetero-patriarchal gender and sexual systems, and opening pathways to alternative visions of the future. (Event image courtesy of Prune Nourry.)

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About the speaker
Xin Huang (pronoun indifferent) received her Ph.D. in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of British Columbia. She currently serves as the Chair and Associate Professor in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Xin's research focuses on the transformation of gender ideologies during the Mao and post-Mao eras by examining and interpreting the oral and visual life narratives of women who lived through these periods. As a translator and scholar writing about China in English, Xin also explores topics related to feminist epistemology, the dominance of the Anglophone perspective, and the linguistic politics involved in feminist knowledge construction.