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Love's Uncertainty

Love's Uncertainty: The Politics and Ethics of Child Rearing in Contemporary China

Teresa Kuan
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Love's Uncertainty
    Book Description:

    Love's Uncertaintyexplores the hopes and anxieties of urban, middle-class parents in contemporary China. Combining long-term ethnographic research with analyses of popular child-rearing manuals, television dramas, and government documents, Teresa Kuan bears witness to the dilemmas of ordinary Chinese parents, who struggle to reconcile new definitions of good parenting with the reality of limited resources. Situating these parents' experiences in the historical context of state efforts to improve "population quality,"Love's Uncertaintyreveals how global transformations are expressed in the most intimate of human experiences. Ultimately, the book offers a meditation on the nature of moral agency, examining how people discern, amid the myriad contingencies of life, the boundary between what can and cannot be controlled.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95936-1
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-29)

    CHEN JIALING HAD NOTHING BUT GOOD INTENTIONS when it came to her daughter Precious, but she could be a little heavy-handed. Like the time she reached for a little notebook of mine, where Precious, who had invited me to visit her third-grade classroom, had just finished writing the name of her school, along with her room number. Mom just wanted to make sure the writing was acceptably legible. She probably also figured she could divine the child’s propensity for conscientiousness in the handwriting while she was at it. This of course was extremely irritating to Precious, who pulled the notebook...

  5. ONE The Politics of Childhood
    (pp. 30-61)

    AT THE TURN OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY, some books written by somebody named Huang Quanyu describing school and family life in the United States hit the market in China, making this author a household name in Chinese cities. TitledEducation for Quality in America(1999) andFamily Education in America(2001), they are filled with vignettes describing Huang’s experience of raising a son during his years as a graduate student in the United States, admiringly showcasing American educational practices. Decidedly nontheoretical books aimed at a popular audience, they describe family life, bake sales, and soccer games—mundane middle-class Americana meant...

  6. TWO The Horrific and the Exemplary
    (pp. 62-84)

    IF THESUZHI JIAOYUMOVEMENT HAS HELPED attune parents to a child’s psychological interiority, this efficacy derives in large part from the experts’ knack for seductive storytelling. In providing personal illustrations of the issues at hand, stories can achieve what simple injunctions cannot. This chapter presents two stories in particular—one a positive model that presents virtues to emulate, and the other a negative model that presents errors to avoid—as told by well-known child-rearing experts publishing under the banner ofsuzhi jiaoyu.Popular experts play a pivotal role in rendering the ideals ofsuzhi jiaoyuself-evident and commonsensical, and...

  7. THREE “The Heart Says One Thing but the Hand Does Another”
    (pp. 85-109)

    ONE RAINY DAY IN THE FALL OF 2006, Hu Qiuli’s apartment was abuzz with activity. A laid-off worker who had taken a keen interest in child education, Hu Qiuli had converted the covered balcony of her home into a classroom of sorts. As she led activities with her afternoon group, I visited with her friend Wang Yan, who brought her daughter Wu Linlin over to see me. But Wu Linlin, an energetic ten-year-old, was less interested in me than in everything else that was going on. There were children at play everywhere.

    When Wu Linlin started up a Chinese checkers...

  8. FOUR Creating Tiaojian, or, The Art of Disposition
    (pp. 110-139)

    ONE POINT THREE BILLION PEOPLE living in China, ten million high school students taking the college entrance exam, ninety-eight thousand graduating primary school students in one city, three to four hundred million primary school students, 30,000yuanin school fees—these totals convey how odds are perceived and how they pose, for urban Chinese parents and their children, the problem ofhow to stand out against the crowd.How to be outstanding in a classroom of sixty or seventy other classmates who also want to be outstanding? How to stay on the path that might lead to a decent life,...

  9. FIVE The Defeat of Maternal Logic in Televisual Space
    (pp. 140-161)

    SET IN BEIJING, the 2009 television serialWho Shall Decide My Youth?(Wo de qingchun shei zuo zhu?) tells the story of an extended family of women headed by a widowed matriarch. It is a coming-of-age story that follows the lives of three cousins, related through their mothers, as they look for love and deal with the challenges that come with entering adult society. In carving out a space in the world, each cousin must battle her mother in a fierce contest of will and strategy. Qingchu (literally “Clarity”), the eldest of the three cousins, is fresh out of law...

  10. SIX Investing in Human Capital, Conserving Life Energies
    (pp. 162-185)

    THE CLASSIC MARXIST DEFINITION OF IDEOLOGY is encapsulated in the sentence “They do not know it, but they are doing it.” This conception presumes that people act in ways that reproduce relations of capitalist production without knowing that they are doing so and that ideology masks or distorts reality in the minds of social actors. Related to the Marxist conception of ideology is the idea of the fetish, which helps to conceal objective social relations of production. Money is a classic example. People mistake wealth as intrinsic to money when in fact it is nothing more than “a condensation, a...

  11. SEVEN Banking in Affects
    (pp. 186-207)

    ECONOMIC METAPHORS DO NOT NECESSARILY REVEAL how far market logic has penetrated into noneconomic domains of life. They may serve as ethical devices—for making sense of when, where, and how one ought to act in the face of processes much larger than oneself. They may also serve as cognitive devices—for articulating the principles behind such processes. In the case of the “human capital” metaphor, the logic of market capitalism is articulated. It is the principle that drives the processes awarding investments and depleting resources. In another instance, the economic metaphor concretizes the principle of affectivity—the power to...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 208-212)

    WHEN I THINK ABOUT MY OWN CHILDHOOD, growing up in a laid-back, multiethnic suburb on the edge of Los Angeles County, I remember the roly-polys. I loved watching them curl, and I would collect them in the used Danish butter cookie tins my mom used to buy. I think about how my brother and I would collect every pencil and pen in the house to create imaginary streets and highways for racing our Hot Wheels cars around. I remember our biggest accomplishment being a fully assembled motorized Lego racecar, and I remember how my best friend and I assembled homemade...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 213-228)
    (pp. 229-244)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 245-256)