Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Jean Halley

Committee Members

David Humphries

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


Korean Feminism, Colonialism, Modernity, Nationalism, Colonial Korea


This thesis aims to investigate the politics of Korean feminism during the time of Japanese colonization (1910-1945) from the perspectives of colonialism, modernity, and nationalism. The study illustrates how Korean women perceived themselves in terms of individuals, colonial subjects, and Korean nationals during a period of significant societal changes. It also intends to broaden the boundaries of gender inquiries in colonial Korea, which often focus on binary constructions of Japanese repression versus national resistance. This study argues that a nationalist paradigm oversimplifies the intricate dynamics and varied experiences of colonized subjects, specifically women. The logic of nationalism places all forms of identities under the concept of the nation, which is portrayed as a unified entity standing in opposition to colonizers. As a result, women's movements during the colonial period were seen as nationalist and anti-colonial. However, women were caught in a more complex and nuanced situation, as they navigated the balance between their traditional roles and the new opportunities for reform and modernization that came with colonialism and modernity. These opportunities were not solely political in nature but also included new social mobility, new self-consciousness, and educational opportunities. However, their efforts to redefine their old identities and create new ones faced resistance from patriarchal forces within the nationalist movement. Therefore, this study seeks to deepen our understanding of the ways in which Korean feminists responded to the conflicting yet reinforcing concepts of colonialism, modernity, and nationalism. Indeed, women's identities were not uniform but contested, reinvented, negotiated, and restructured during the colonial period.