Between Birth and Death
Female Infanticide in Nineteenth-Century China
Stanford University Press 2014
Michelle King‘s new book explores the intertwined histories of imperialism and infanticide. Situating the histories of infant killing and abandonment in China within a broader history of these practices in western Europe and across Eurasia, Between Birth and Death: Female Infanticide in Nineteenth-Century China (Stanford UP, 2014) thus wrests the notion of female infanticide from an uncritical identification with a historical or imagined “China.” Instead of assuming this identification, King’s book asks when female infanticide became “Chinese,” and uses the chapters of Between Birth and Death to introduce readers to a fascinating archive of texts, images, memoirs, morality plays, scientific treatises, monuments, catechisms, devotional cards, newspaper articles, and other materials that forms the substratum from which changing perceptions of female infanticide were born and transformed through the nineteenth century and beyond. King offers sympathetic readings of the motivations of a wide spectrum of individuals, from women who chose to drown their daughters to philanthropic activists within and beyond China who fought against the practice, to children who donated pennies from their allowance to ensure that Chinese babies would be baptized. It is a balanced, clearly written, and persuasively argued account of an exceptionally timely topic that deserves a wide readership.