Transforming Patriarchy

Chinese Families in the Twenty-First Century

Edited by Goncalo Santos and Stevan Harrell

  • Published: November 2016
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / China; Anthropology; Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 312 pp., 2 tables, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

Each successive wave of revolution to hit modern China-political, cultural, and economic-has radically reshaped Chinese society. Whereas patriarchy defined the familial social structure for thousands of years, changing realities in the last hundred years have altered and even reversed long-held expectations. Transforming Patriarchy explores the private and public dimensions of these changes in present-day China. Patriarchy is not dead, but it is no longer the default arrangement for Chinese families: Daughters-in-law openly berate their fathers-in-law. Companies sell filial-piety insurance. Many couples live together before marriage, and in some parts of rural China, almost all brides are pregnant.

Drawing on a multitude of sources and perspectives, this volume turns to the intimate territory of the family to challenge prevailing scholarly assumptions about gender and generational hierarchies in Chinese society. Case studies examine factors such as social class, geography, and globalization as they relate to patriarchal practice and resistance to it. The contributors bring the concept of patriarchy back to the heart of China studies while rethinking its significance in dominant Western-centric theories of modernity.
Goncalo Santos is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Hong Kong. Stevan Harrell is professor of anthropology and environmental and forest sciences at the University of Washington. The contributors are Melissa J. Brown, Elisabeth L. Engebretsen, Harriet Evans, Suzanne Gottschang, William Jankowiak, Andrew B. Kipnis, Kerstin Klein, Xuan Li, Helena Obendiek, Lihong Shi, Roberta Zavoretti, and Hong Zhang.

"Will make an enormous contribution to our understanding of patriarchy in general and the rapid transformation of '[Han] Chinese patriarchy' in particular."
-Shanshan Du, author of Chopsticks Only Work in Pairs: Gender Unity and Gender Equality among the Lahu of Southwest China

"This is a timely volume that offers current research on the changing configuration of patriarchal relationships, practices, and ideologies in contemporary China. The scope is broad, covering both rural and urban China, but not at the expense of depth, which the individual case studies provide in spades."
-Sara Friedman, author of Exceptional States: Chinese Immigrants and Taiwanese Sovereignty


Note on Transcription

Introduction / Stevan Harrell and Gon¨alo Santos
Part One Rural Reconfigurations
1. Dutiful Help: Masking Rural Women's Economic Contributions / Melissa J. Brown 000
2. From Care Providers to Financial Burdens: The Changing Role of Sons and Reproductive Choice in Rural Northeast China / Lihong Shi
3. Higher Education, Gender, and Elder Support in Rural Northwest China / Helena Obendiek
4. Multiple Mothering and Labor Migration in Rural South China / Gon¨alo Santos

Part Two Class, Gender, and Patriarchy in Urban Society
5. Urbanization and the Transformation of Kinship Practice in Shandong / Andrew B. Kipnis
6. Being the Right Woman for "Mr. Right": Marriage and Household Politics in Present-Day Nanjing / Roberta Zavoretti
7. Emergent Conjugal Love, Mutual Affection, and Female Marital Power / William Jankowiak and Xuan Li
8. Under Pressure: Lesbian-Gay Contract Marriages and Their Patriarchal Bargains / Elisabeth L. Engebretsen
9. Patriarchal Investments: Expectations of Male Authority and Support in a Poor Beijing Neighborhood / Harriet Evans

Part Three New Technologies, New Institutions
10. Taking Patriarchy Out of Postpartum Recovery? / Suzanne Gottschang
11. Assisted Reproductive Technologies, Sperm Donation, and Biological Kinship: A Recent Chinese Media Debate / Kerstin Klein
12. Recalibrating Filial Piety: Realigning the State, Family, and Market Interests in China / Hong Zhang

List of Contributors

"The anthropological perspective on Chinese family life adopted by the contributors to this volume reveals a great deal of interesting variation-across the urban-rural divide; according to region, class, and sexual orientation; and even just by personality and circumstance."
-Andrew J. Nathan, Foreign Affairs

"Provides a multifaceted and knowledgeable picture of present day families in the People's Republic of China. . . . The book contributes to a deeper understanding of the ongoing transformation in China with changes of social norms, social relations and familial behavior modifying the traditional concept of patriarchy."
-Jutta Hebel, New Books Asia

"Taken together these papers succeed laudably in conveying the nexus of intersecting issues that complicate the contemporary scene in China with respect to gender and generational hierarchies and exchanges, filial piety, changing economic circumstances, the demands of familial duty, and so forth. In sum, the volume contributes importantly to understanding social circumstances in contemporary China."
-P. Steven Sangren, China Review International