The scientific and hygienic housewife-and-mother: Education, consumption and the discourse of domesticity

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Abstract

This article examines the development of a discourse on modern domesticity in colonial Burma that not only emphasized the role of a woman in safeguarding the health and welfare of her family and nation, but also associated housewifery and motherhood with "domestic science," medicine, and hygienic behavior. The article shows that two cultural and didactic institutions, one formal and the other informal, served to disseminate this discourse on modern domesticity: "secular" government-funded co-educational schools and the popular press. It reveals that the emergence of the ideal of the scientific and hygienic housewife-and-mother was not simply an effect of a unilateral and hegemonic process of imperialism. Rather, it is best understood as a phenomenon informed simultaneously and conjointly by "Western" and cosmopolitan notions of scientific progress, bodily discipline and hygiene, bourgeois femininity, and health technologies, and the rise of consumer culture, aided by the spread of illustrated printed material, especially advertisements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-89
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Burma Studies
Volume14
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History

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