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Tani Barlow papers

Biographical/Historical note

Tani Barlow (b. February 18, 1950 in Madison, Wisconsin) was born to Claude Abner Barlow (1921-1995) and Alice Voorsanger Barlow (1924-2010), with three siblings, Gayne, Naomi, and Dika. Growing up, the Barlow family “drifted” often, moving several times throughout the West Coast of the United States, finally settling in Palo Alto, California. Following the Holocaust, Barlow recounts the anti-semitism her family faced, as her mother was Jewish. Her parents were deemed a ‘mixed race’ couple that affected family, as well as social, relationships. As a child, Barlow’s great aunt, Anna M. Kross, influenced her greatly. Barlow described Kross as a strong female role model -- “a political radical, a labor lawyer and co-founder of the Lucy Stone League.” Barlow lived with Kross for 18 months beginning in 1968.

In 1962, Barlow and her family moved to Tokyo for thirteen months, during which time Barlow learned her first Asian language, Japanese. She describes this as a particularly formative experience, however Barlow’s interest in China specifically, stemmed from her great uncle, Claude Barlow, who served as a medical missionary in China in the early 20th century.

At the age of sixteen, Barlow’s father withdrew her from high school and she was enrolled in university in Hawaii. Barlow later left and travelled for a few years before returning to school. In 1975, Barlow received her BA from San Francisco State University with a dual degree in History and Chinese Language. She then went on to get her MA (1979) and PhD (1985) from UC Davis in History. Barlow began teaching in 1981 as a lecturer in American Culture for Shanghai Teachers University, then moved to Missouri as an assistant professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She married Donald Lowe (1929-2009), a fellow academic and Asian Studies scholar and formerly her professor at San Francisco State University, in 1990. Barlow continued teaching at institutions such as San Francisco State University, University of Washington, and finally Rice University.

Barlow has several major publications, including her most recent book, In the Event of Women (2017), Chinese Reflections: Americans Teaching in the People’s Republic (1985), which was co-authored with Lowe, and many other books, chapters, journal articles, and reviews. Barlow also completed several book translations between English and Mandarin. In 1993, Barlow founded the journal, Positions, for which she is still the editor. She has lectured all over the world at various workshops and universities, including Westminster University, the University of Bologna, Universität Heidelberg, Institut National des Langues et Civilisation Orientales, Ochanomizu University, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Currently, Barlow works as a professor at Rice University, where she was inaugural director of the Chao Centre for Asian Studies as well as she is a Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Asian Studies and History.