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Research

We have an international reputation for excellence in research and scholarship in a range of specific areas, and offer postgraduate supervision to qualified candidates. Trinity College Dublin is a research-intensive university, and the first and only university on the island of Ireland to become a member of the League of European Research Universities (LERU), Europe’s leading network of research-intensive universities that includes Oxford and Cambridge.

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Doctoral Research Scholarships in Chinese Studies

Trinity College Dublin Provost’s PhD Scholarships 2018
The Trinity Centre for Asian Studies is offering two fully funded PhD scholarships, covering fees (either EU or Non-EU) plus an annual stipend of €16,000 per year for four years, in the following areas:

The successful applicants will produce an independent piece of research in the form of a PhD thesis. They will also assist their supervisors with other elements of the project (for example: research tasks; conference organisation; workshop management). In addition to their own research and doctoral studies, students with a Provost’s Scholarship may be asked to work up to 24 hours per month on the project. Please contact the prospective supervisor about your project before submitting your application. The deadline is 1 May 2018, for a start date of 1 September 2018.

 

New TCAS Research Projects

Isabella Jackson, Assistant Professor in Chinese History at Trinity College Dublin, has been awarded a prestigious Irish Research Council Laureate Award for the project CHINACHILD on Slave-Girls and the Discovery of Female Childhood in Twentieth-Century China. The award is worth €400,000 over four years. Dr Jacksons was also recently awarded a Royal Irish Academy Charlemont Grant as part of her research project on mui tsai in Shanghai.

In-depth with Dr Isabella Jackson: Debating Chinese Child Slavery: Child Protection in 1930s Shanghai

In 1936 the Shanghai City Government Police Bureau called for the voluntary registration of all ‘female slaves’ in the city. The government was responding to international and local pressure to clamp down on the practice of Chinese families adopting ‘younger sisters’ or mui tsai to work as domestic servants, sold by parents who could not afford to keep them.

Professor Jackson says that while there is not a huge amount of knowledge about why this practice began, by the 18th century it was widespread in China. The practice of adopting a mui tsai is said to have originated from Southern China but as people migrated to other areas in China and further afield, even to San Francisco and Australia, the practice continued there. During the 19th century the practice came under increasing scrutiny. While some girls were sold unknowingly into trafficking, others suffered abuse at the hands of their adopted families.

"Some people would sell their daughters to traffickers believing that they would be placed into nice middle class families while actually they would be fed into prostitution. Within the household, there are many interviews with women who remember being abused by the head of the household or people who were supposed to be their brothers or the mother of the household beating them or sexually abusing them; this is not to say that this was happening everywhere –some of them would have been given better life opportunities – but as a result of the girls being placed in such vulnerable positions, many of them remember being treated badly."

When criticism of the ‘younger sister’ practice first arose in Hong Kong in the 1870s, Professor Jackson says the dominant response within Chinese society was to defend the system, saying that it was an alternative to infanticide and the neglect of children. The interference of the Hong Kong Government in ‘traditional practices’ was viewed with contempt. Ironically in later years, the one child policy would change the traditionally low value attached to daughters. Increased scrutiny around the adoption of mui tsai was driven in part internationally by Clara Hazlewood, a British woman who found out about the practice and campaigned against it in Britain. She raised awareness of the plight of mui tsai in the British parliament where Winston Churchill spoke about the issue. The League of Nations, which at the time had an anti-slavery committee, heard about this controversy and decided that it should become part of its campaigning activities, which then propelled the problem into a global issue. When the system came under renewed scrutiny in the 1930s, Professor Jackson points to an increased level of disagreement in Chinese communities.

"One of the things I want to investigate is why scrutiny of the system died away and then resurged in the 1930s. By that point it seems that there was much more disagreement among the Chinese communities. There were some people who still saw it as a widespread practice - the dominant classes often had mui tsai themselves so they thought it was acceptable - but there was now a new reforming younger generation who were very aware of China being criticised internationally and didn’t like the way that this made them look, so they started campaigning against mui tsai."


Professor Jackson's research project explores the way in which anti-mui tsai campaigns saw the emergence of civil society in China and reflect the growing influence of international civil society through organisations such as the League of Nations. This tension between diverging responses to traditional practices in the 1930s will be the focus of Professor Jackson’s research when she visits Shanghai in July 2016, a research trip which will be funded by the Royal Irish Academy Charlemont Grant. Professor Jackson’s research brings a renewed focus to debates about the existence and nature of the public sphere in China, in the context of humanitarian concerns.