Family Revolution

Marital Strife in Contemporary Chinese Literature and Visual Culture

Hui Faye Xiao

  • Published: 2014
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / China; Literary Studies; Film and Media Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 224 pp., 7 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

As state control of private life in China has loosened since 1980, citizens have experienced an unprecedented family revolution-an overhaul of family structure, marital practices, and gender relationships. While the nuclear family has become a privileged realm of romance and individualism symbolizing the post-revolutionary "freedoms" of economic and affective autonomy, women's roles in particular have been transformed, with the ideal "iron girl" of socialism replaced by the feminine, family-oriented "good wife and wise mother."

Problems and contradictions in this new domestic culture have been exposed by China's soaring divorce rate. Reading popular "divorce narratives" in fiction, film, and TV drama, Hui Faye Xiao shows that the representation of marital discord has become a cultural battleground for competing ideologies within post-revolutionary China. While these narratives present women's cultivation of wifely and maternal qualities as the cure for family disintegration and social unrest, Xiao shows that they in fact reflect a problematic resurgence of traditional gender roles and a powerful mode of control over supposedly autonomous private life.
Hui Faye Xiao is assistant professor of modern Chinese literature and culture at the University of Kansas.

"An original and important contribution to the scholarship on Chinese culture in the post-Mao era with a breadth of perspective and depth of insight that few works have matched. A devastating critique of the social, economic, and cultural regendering of China in the reform era."
-Jason McGrath, University of Minnesota

"Insightfully manages to situate the chosen texts in relation to the larger contexts of ideological and socioeconomic changes."
-Xueping Zhong, Tufts University

1. Divorcing the Rural
2. Midlife Crisis and Misogynist Rhetoric
3. Utopia or Dystopia?
4. What Quality Do Chinese Wives Lack?
5. Seeking Second Chances in a Risk Society
6. A New Divorce Culture
Appendix 1
Appendix 2

"For those who do not study contemporary China or for those who need English translations or subtitles to gain access to these stories and films, this book is a gold mine....[B]ecause Xiao so frequently engages European social theory and film criticism, the book addresses the urgent need to integrate Chinese experiences and analyses into intellectual discourse that focuses primarily on the literature and films of the Americas and Europe."
-Deborah Davis, Journal of Asian Studies

"Hui Faye Xiao makes a significant contribution to recent scholarship on the cultural representation of marital strife in contemporary China....Combining insightful aesthetic understanding of literature and visual culture with a savvy engagement of knowledge from sociology and cultural anthropology, Xiao's book presents important scholarship on the gendered reading of postsocialist Chinese modernity with a genealogical approach."
-Yipeng Shen, Modern Chinese Literature and Culture

"Through the lense of divorce narratives in literature and visual culture, the book produces an in-depth cultural study of the 'family revolution' in the People's Republic of China between 1980 and 2010....ĘDivorce culture, as [Xiao's] skillful reading shows, reveals postsocialist subjects' eager desire to move forward to a utopic future, but it always fails to deliver in reality.... Family Revolution is a well-researched book with a coherent structure, theoretically informed arguments, and intriguing close reading, making it a wonderful addition to the scholarship on postsocialist Chinese culture and/or Chinese women's and gender studies."
-Ping Zhu, H-Asia (H-Net)