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Between Despair and Heroism: Toward a History of Male Suicide in the Qing
Men of varying classes, ethnicities, and ages across the Qing empire (1644-1911) resorted to suicide. This presentation reflects an initial social history of male self-killing against the blurring social hierarchies, increased geographic mobility, and more violent and widespread challenges to imperial power in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Today, we assume suicides are bad and preventable. By contrast, in the Qing, suicide could be seen as positive. While jurists scrutinized evidence for legal responsibility in a suicide case, there was an acceptance of some suicides simply not being avoidable. Without an automatic moral and religious condemnation of all suicide, the workings of a "necropolitics" to separate "good" from "bad" self-killings are far clearer in the Qing context: whether a given suicide was trivialized as an overreaction borne of ignorance and irrationality, commemorated as an act of ultimate courage, or prosecuted as symptomatic of a real trespass of justice depended significantly on the position of the deceased in the sociopolitical hierarchy— as with much else in Qing elites' deeply stratified view of society. But even the lauded suicides of powerful men contained tensions between individual agency and the fundamentally elitist, patriarchal structures and cultural ideals of power.

This talk will be held as a hybrid event, with in-person attendance restricted to Stanford affiliates (ID holders) ONLY, in accordance with Stanford University's policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Stanford affiliates who wish to attend in-person may do so by going to the East Asia Library Room 224 on the day of the event after registering here. Members of the public are welcome to join us for this talk via Zoom webinar. More information on Stanford University's visitor policy can be found here: https://healthalerts.stanford.edu/covid-19/visitors/

May 17, 2022 04:30 PM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Center for East Asian Studies Chop
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