Noting recent trends away from person-centered ethnographic discussions in the organized anthropology of China, this panel, organized for the Novemer 2010 annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in New Orleans, LA, USA, seeks to encourage anthropologists to complicate “Big China” narratives (Jeffrey Wasserstrom “Big China Books: Enough of the Big Picture,” Time.com, February 8, 2010). We want to circulate the message that uncritical emphasis on macro-level analyses and predictions about the future of the Chinese state and its political frameworks are not the only approach to studying China. Therefore, we advocate a grounded focus on intimate circuits in Chinese contemporary culture and society – those personal and inter-subjective aspects of life that have realized a more diverse expression in the post-Mao period.
The question of sex and sexuality in China – involving some of the most intimate, private, and sensitive aspects of life – is among the most overlooked in recent conference presentations. This observation is evidenced by the dispersal of specific papers on the topic over a wide range of non-China-specific panels during the past few years. With this call, then, we propose to bring anthropologists of Chinese sexual culture together in one historic forum to close the gap on this important topic.
Images and meanings of Chinese sexuality circulate in and through spatial and temporal boundaries, being understood simultaneously as local, national, regional, and global, as well as new, old, traditional, modern, postmodern, and futuristic. Sexual bodies and practices circulate in and through a variety of settings and in a variety of combinations. This panel seeks to consider these “circulations” not only in terms of how such a rubric affects the wider study of China, but also how it informs theories of contemporary socio-sexuality in China.
We invite papers that explore the terrain of sex and sexuality in the context of a changing China (with emphasis on the People’s Republic), where sexual practices and knowledges circulating in intimate spheres expand possibilities for private life, public and consumer culture, the media, and official discourse. Contemporary rhetoric has altered views on permissiveness, restriction, pleasure, and politics intermittently, and it participates in an international context of traveling ideas about sensual and sexual intimacies, as well as their politics. In light of this, we ask how sex and intimacy have shaped personal and social experiences of self, Chineseness, as well as collective and more politicized notions of the nation during the reform period. To what extent do newly available imaginaries of sex and sensuality modify pre-existing moral norms of correct gender and sexuality? How do transnational discourses and cultures of sex circulate in and within China, and vice versa? How are institutions such as marriage, the family, and educational establishments shaped by, and shaping, personal experiences of sex and intimacy? By extension, how can anthropologies of sex and sexual cultures contribute toward greater understandings of cultural transformation in Chinese society and the circuits of exchange and globalization, of which China is increasingly a part?
We encourage the exploration of the following, as well as other related, topics:
- new reproductive technologies
- transnational sexualities
- emergent sexual subcultures (including lesbian, gay, transgender, queer, intersex, and others)
- sex work
- sex and urban/rural difference
- gender and sexuality
- abortion and population-control policy.
Please submit 250-word abstracts both to William Schroeder (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Elisabeth Engebretsen (email@example.com) by March 16, 2010.
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