Cosmetic Practices in Early Modern China: Consumption, Vernacular Knowledge, and Technologies of Gender


Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Predissertation-Summer Travel Grants




My dissertation uses a single class of objects – cosmetics – to connect the histories of material culture, medicine, gender, and the senses; and explore patterns of consumption and trade, the transmission and production of knowledge, and technologies of gender in early modern China. First, I integrate cosmetics into the study of global exchanges of raw materials, commodities, and ideas. Second, I explain how medical and craft knowledge associated with cosmetics entered into everyday life and transformed the human body. Third, I demonstrate that cosmetics constituted a means by which individuals performed gender identities and understandings of masculinity and femininity by modifying the visual, tactile, and olfactory experiences of cosmetic practitioners and observers.