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CSDE Seminar – Riding the Leviathan: Gender, Fertility, and Selfhood in Autocratic China

Posted: 2/8/2024 (CSDE Seminar Series)

Join CSDE and the Population Health Initiative for a seminar with Dr. Yun Zhou on Friday, Feb. 16th from 12:30-1:30 PM in 360 PAR and on Zoom (register here). Zhou is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan. Zhou’s research examines social inequality and state-market-family relations through the lens of gender, marriage, and reproduction. Intersecting the studies of population and politics, Zhou’s current project investigates the demographic, political, and gendered consequences of China’s evolving reproductive governance.

There are several opportunities to meet with Zhou on Feb. 16th, including 1×1 meetings (sign up here) and a graduate student lunch, facilitated by CSDE Trainee June Yang. Learn more about the lunch in its official event poster (here) and RSVP to June ( to attend.

Abstract: What does it mean to be independent and “lead a life of one’s own,” when the state holds considerable power over individuals? Drawing on the deep theoretical tradition that connects large-scale demographic changes and the “pursuit of individualism,” I approach this question by examining individuals’ fertility ideations and behavior in contemporary China. Marshaling a mixed-methods design that combines 115 in-depth interviews and six waves of national surveys, I ask: How do urban Chinese women and men formulate fertility aspirations and make decisions about parenthood, as they construct visions of selfhood? Findings demonstrate that among men, transition into parenthood is frequently viewed as integral to the making of an independent self, marking the beginning of becoming legible as an individual person with a family of his own. Women, on the other hand, largely view parenthood as the harbinger of the breaking of an independent self and the end of individual autonomy. I further elucidate how such sharp contrast is rooted in the gender and family systems of contemporary China that entangle the sometimes-contradictory scripts of authoritarian pronatalism, on the one hand, and market-centric neoliberal development, on the other.



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Date: 02/16/2024

Time: 12:30-1:30 PM

Location: 360 PAR and on Zoom (register here)