Inter-Asia Asia Cultural Studies Conference

7-9 August. The biannual Inter-Asia Cultural Studies will take place in Surabaya, Indonesia. Here you can find more information on the conference.

Here I will join a panel related to our SINGLE project:

Panel title: Single Desire? – On love, romance, gender and the city in China and India

Panel abstract:

Rapidly transforming urban centres such as Delhi and Shanghai are the backdrop to changing family patterns and the unravelling of ‘traditional’ social contracts as a result of migration, new work opportunities, delayed marriage, divorce, open homosexuality, and a growing leisure and consumer society. These cities are cultural contact zones, shaping and being shaped by global, regional and national flows. This panels zooms in on the precarity of the resulting urban female subjectivities, and the tactics mobilised to negotiate and contest asymmetrical power relations that are deeply entrenched in partriarchal, heteronormative and class discourses.

Paper Title: Being Single in Shanghai and Delhi – Questioning the Emergence of “New” Asian Femininities

Single women have become a topic of societal concern in both China and India, a concern that reinforces hegemonic patriarchal and heteronormative discourses. This paper explores how women’s use of urban space helps to negotiate these hegemonic discourses. Our analysis traces the inevitable shift in subjectivity under conditions of neoliberal economics (reflexive, autonomous, modern, individual versus traditional, collective, family oriented). We mobilize the tropes of ‘respectability’, ‘autonomy’ and ‘precarity,’ to grasp the balancing taking place between the demands of the ‘global city’ and the imposed need for the body of the woman to maintain notions of ‘tradition.’

de Kloet, Jeroen (presenter), Christiane Brosius, Melissa Butcher

Paper title: Caring in the time of precarity: A study of single women in the creative class of Shanghai

We are experiencing two peculiar moments in urban history. First, increasingly more people do not subscribe to ‘traditional’ forms of living; they go solo, despite stigmatization and discrimination. Second, increasingly more people join the creative workforce, often at the expense of job security. Straddling on this precarious conjuncture, this paper focuses on one group of urban ‘precariats’: single women in Shanghai with creative (self-)employment. It presents findings of a pilot study on their everyday life, their struggles and pleasures, ultimately to offer some insights for the question: how (far) can one take care of oneself in the time of precarity.

Chow Yiu Fai

Paper Title: It is Not Just About Getting Married: Inventing the Desiring Self in Love Club

Besides the well-established matchmaking agencies, websites and television programs, private training and consulting services are burgeoning in big cities in China, offering economically well-off yet emotionally troubled individuals various instructions on how to date, love or hook up. Drawing on participant observation and interviews in Shanghai-based Love Club, a three-month training course on how to develop romantic relationship, this paper investigates how young single women construct narratives of the self—through articulating their confusions, identifying their problems in men-women relations and showing transformations of the self—amid multilayered pressures to marry and achieve in a highly competitive metropolis like Shanghai.

PI Chenying

Paper Title: An Affective “Home”: Singlehood, Migrant Women and Workers Dormitory in Shanghai

 Shanghai’s population comprises more than 3 million rural-urban migrant women. They are part of the “floating population” – rural-migrants without hukou (“household registration”) in their urban destinations. Although working in the cities, urban policy, including the hukou system, does not welcome their permanent presence. How is it possible for migrant women to create a sense of “home” in Shanghai under such conditions of precarity and uncertainty? Based on my fieldwork among young migrant women in Shanghai, I analyze how they affectively negotiate the city, in particular, by feeling and creating a sense of “home” in the restaurants’ workers dormitory.

IP Tsz Ting (Penn)

I also join a roundtable linked to the Rowan and Littlefield Asian Cultural Studies book series edited by Koichi Iwaabuchi,


Working in a humanities department in Amsterdam, in which “Asia” is conspicuously absent in the curriculum, I like to probe into the question raised in the description of this new book series: “to advance transnational intellectual dialogue.” Who are the speaking partners in this dialogue, who can speak, and who does listen, but also, who speaks too much, and who refuses to listen? Drawing on my experiences in continental Europe, I hope to show how this transnational dialogue continues to be haunted by the specter of Euro-and Anglocentrism. Should we develop tactics of exorcisation, or maybe produce a counter ghostly strategy?