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Sexualities and Genders in Modern East Asia, 1600-1945 (5 EC)


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Asian Studies (60 EC, 120 EC or research). Students from other relevant
MA programmes can be admitted if places are left; students from the MA Asian Studies have


This course discusses key developments in the history of genders and sexualities in modern East Asia (China, Korea and Japan) from ca. 1600-1945, covering both femininities and masculinities, normative and
non-normative sexualities. We will aim to understand gender issues via a dual approach both in a national
as well as a transnational, integrated context, paying attention to shared, cross-cultural themes across the
whole East Asian region as well as local, national variations and conditions. What impact did new
historical developments in the early modern era, such as urbanization, commercialization and increased
literacy, have on genders and sexualities? What role did the arrival of nation states and ‘modernity’ in the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries play in constructing gender and sexuality? Which philosophies
dominated the production of gendered ideologies, and in what way? Select themes discussed will include
the role of Confucianism and Buddhism in shaping femininities, masculinities and sexuality; the gendering
of culture, society, education and the nation state; the body; feminism, new women and modern girls;
prostitution from pleasure quarters to comfort stations; sexuality and queer cultures; sexuality and
eugenics in the early 20th c.; the rise of sexology in the late 19th/early 20th c. and the concomitant birth of ‘homosexuality’ and ‘transgenderism’.

Course objectives

The course aims to:

  • Introduce central scholarly debates in historical Gender and Sexuality Studies and engage with some seminal theories in these fields

  • Critically reflect on their applicability in an (East) Asian context

  • Provide an overview of key themes in the history of East Asian sexualities and genders

  • Improve students’ advanced research skills, presentation skills, composition skills, and ability to critically evaluate readings


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught as a seminar and attendance is compulsory for all sessions. Students are
expected to prepare and contribute to in-class discussion. If a student cannot attend for any
reason, they should promptly inform the convener. Absence without notification may result in lower grades or exclusion from assessment components and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method

5 EC course: · Participation (100%)
Students are expected to participate actively in discussions and group exercises and prepare weekly readings. This also includes a mid-term and end-of-term meeting with the instructor (15 mins each) to reflect on course contents and a presentation.

Reading list

The course covers a wide range of readings from a variety of sources, most of which will be accessible

online via the Leiden University catalogue. Further details will be announced in the syllabus and at the

beginning of the course.

Course textbook:

Molony, Barbara, Theiss, Janet, and Choi, Hyaeweol. Gender in Modern East Asia : An Integrated History.

First ed. 2016, London: Routledge


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.