IdeaFest 2015 – Women Crossing Borders: Gender and the Asia-Pacific

March 3, 2015 from 4:00 pm – 6:30 pm
University of Victoria, Sedgewick Building, Room C168

Koto master Satomi Edwards performs "Ichikotsu' (composed by Houzan Yamamoto) as part of CAPI's IdeaFest 2015 event.

CAPI’s Ideafest event, Women Crossing Borders: Gender and the Asia Pacific was a standing room only smash hit.

Professor Brannen, CAPI’s Japan Chair, hosted the event leveraging the event date—March 3, Girl’s Day in Japan—to set the stage for a thoughtful discussion of women’s roles in the Asia Pacific region by displaying her family’s set of Hina Ningyo (Girl’s Day Dolls representing the Imperial Court of the Heian period, 794-1159) and performing a duet of the classic ‘Sakura' on koto (Japanese floor harp) with Victoria’s own koto expert, Satomi Edwards. Professor Brannen then gave a statistical overview of the status of working women in the Asia Pacific and beyond. Natasha Fox, Pacific and Asian Studies, laid out some of the challenges still facing the reconstruction of Japan’s Tohoku region, highlighting the contributions that women and LBGT citizens can make to rebuild their communities and reinforce community resilience before the next disaster strikes. Cate Lawrence, Department of Dispute Resolution, discussed some of the systemic challenges facing Nepali women who migrate to Malaysia for work, and showed how making some calculated changes to the process can save them from years of indentured, debt-ridden work in their host country. Elena Lopez revealed the various macro narratives in which women workers from the Philippines function as caregivers to the families of others, while their own families often struggle to get the care that they need. Grace Wong Sneddon, Uvic interdisciplinary PhD student, discussed the function of orientalism and its intersection with gender and power in the context of North American pop culture and Hollywood images of Chinese women in the 1940s and 50s. 

The themes of power and autonomy, what constitutes work, and how that (gendered) work is rewarded and celebrated (or unrecognized) in different contexts and time periods, as well as mobility and lack of mobility were prevalent among all of the presentations.  Also significant was the important effects of differing institutional logics on women’s opportunities in the workplace between developing vs. industrialized economies and how the lack of institutional and social support can give rise to creative entrepreneurial solutions. Each of the presentations touched on women working outside (or alongside) of established channels in order to meet their own needs and the needs of others. Overall the panel concurred that greater participation by women is needed at multiple levels of the systems in which they are integral participants. This is true for private and public sectors, as well as the systems that regulate international labor flows, and produce the images of women seen by people around the world.