While diverse family forms and systems have long been in existence in various parts of Asia, recent forces of globalization, urbanization, increased migration, and changes in demographic trends have significantly altered them. Such trends as declining fertility, rising ages at marriage and non-marriage, international marriage, migration and relocation, increased physical and social mobility among family members within and across generations, increased women’s labor force participation, ageing, changing social expectations of marriage, divorce, parenting, gender roles and cultural shifts in values and attitudes about family have led to further shifts in family structures and roles. This has brought about even greater diversity in marriage and family formation patterns and subsequently greater complexity of family life, including new demands, stresses and challenges, that families now encounter.
At the policy level, various measures have been put forth by the state aimed at regulating fertility - decreasing fertility in contexts where fertility remains high and increasing it in contexts of very low fertility - , encouraging marriage while at the same time discouraging early marriage, and providing various forms of assistance for care of the poor, elderly and children. These measures have been in place to uphold and help families, with the political and social belief that the family unit is the basic economic, social and emotional unit of society and social cohesion. It is also commonly assumed by both policymakers and members of society that it should be possible to rely on the family to provide for the survival and wellbeing of family members.
Amidst the various macro-level structural changes and state-level government policies aimed at maintaining the family, it is important to understand and acknowledge the micro-level processes and patterns of family change that are occurring in response to the documented and better understood larger trends. Macro forces of globalization and demographic shifts, both as a cause and consequence of family change, have been documented. However, we know very little of how families and individual members within families are responding to and coping with these changes. An aspect that needs greater attention in the literature is the recognition of alternative forms of living familial lives that have emerged in Asia, such as cohabitation among unmarried couples, shared living arrangements among migrant singles, and same-sex unions. The family as the economic and social safety net so commonly assumed may in reality be limited or non-existent as families diminish in size or are affected by migration, prolonged unemployment, divorce, and other social problems. Families themselves are continually evolving and constantly re-working their own definition, status and importance in society, through their everyday life arrangements, adjustments and longer term plans and ideals.
Given this context, this conference aims to explore the resilience and transformation of families in Asia as well as to understand how families are attempting to hold together, whether successfully or unsuccessfully, in the midst of change and often adversity. Its goal is to bring together current work that is being done acknowledging the emergence of new family structures, alternate living arrangements, new family support systems and specific strategies that have been implemented by individuals within their families - however constituted or being reconstituted - to cope with the pressures of their societies and with their own expectations. We place particular emphasis on individual agency and the active role taken by members of the family unit. We also recognize and place importance on how responses to such challenges vary in different parts of Asia as a result of the existence of varying types of family systems and different contexts of economic and social change. For example, while in some countries families have adopted new institutional structures such as neo-local family residence, in others older systems of extended residence have in fact persisted or have been modified as an alternative strategy to cope with rising costs of housing and childcare.
Among the themes that will be considered in the panels for the conference are the following:
1. Changing meanings of family and changing roles of parenthood (fatherhood/motherhood/single parenthood, dual-income parenting, grandparenting)
2. Singlehood, delayed marriage, and belonging to family
3. New forms of living long-term familial relationships (e.g. cohabitation by unmarried couples, shared living arrangements by migrant singles)
4. Balancing of work and family life (e.g. workplace work cultures and policies towards family, work-life arrangements by families)
5. Migration and the emergence of new family forms and support systems, including cross-cultural, transnational, and “left behind” families
6. Coping with prolonged economic problems (e.g. long term unemployment and impact on family)
7. Intergenerational issues (grandparent/child relationships, issues of eldercare, childcare, residential arrangements, transmission of family and cultural traditions)
8. Sexuality and familial relations (singles, gay men/lesbians in families and as families)
The conference will be based on suitable papers received from interested participants and invited speakers. We wish to call for papers along one or more of the above themes addressing the topic of resilience and transformation of families in Asia. Papers on other themes directly related to the institution of family in the context of economic and social change will also be considered. We invite papers from countries of all parts of Asia, and from a wide range of disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, psychology, demography, geography, history and social work. Partial funding to attend the conference may be available for the presenting author of selected papers.
Abstracts of papers should be sent to Dr. Bina Gubhaju (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 1 November 2007. The abstract should be no longer than 500 words and should include a description of the topic, theoretical focus, methodology, and (expected) findings. The author making the submission must provide the full name(s), affiliations, phone numbers, fax numbers, and email addresses of all co-authors (please underline the presenter of the paper). Acceptance of papers will be notified by 1 December 2007. A draft of the completed paper should be submitted one month before the date of the conference.
Selected papers from the workshop will be considered for publication in a special journal issue or edited volume.
Dr. Bina Gubhaju
Asia Research Institute
National University of Singapore
#10-01 Tower Block,
469A Bukit Timah Road
Tel: (65) 6516 1221
Fax: (65) 6779 1428
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