Transforming Patriarchy: Chinese Families in the Twenty-First Century

In This Review

Transforming Patriarchy: Chinese Families in the Twenty-First Century
Edited by Goncalo Santos and Stevan Harrell
University of Washington Press, 2016
312 pp.
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The anthropological perspective on Chinese family life adopted by the contributors to this volume reveals a great deal of interesting variation—across the urban-rural divide; according to region, class, and sexual orientation; and even just by personality and circumstance. But a pattern emerges. The Chinese family is changing under the impact of many forces, including marketization, urbanization, reduced family size, consumerism, and loosening sexual mores. There is more personal choice in marriage, families are smaller, and elders today rely less on their children to take care of them than in the past. Daughters are more valued than they used to be, because the housing and gifts that must be purchased to marry off a son are more expensive, and because daughters are more likely than sons to help their parents in old age. Yet tradition still weighs heavily. Between what the editors of this volume call “the two axes of patriarchy,” the power of elders has weakened more than the dominance of males.

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