China and Inner Asia
Session Abstract: The dynamics of state-family relations constitutes one of the most important dimensions of Chinese history. Past works on family-state relations in China have focused on the most salient institutions and processes of family reforms, such as marriage laws, family planning, and liberalization of women. Moving away from this emphasis on modernizing reforms, this panel showcases interdisciplinary papers that reveal latent state ideological agendas and uncover new sites of family-state interactions. Drawing on ritual manuals, legal codes, and case records from the Tang to the Qing, Yue Du shows how father’s and mother’s authority became increasingly equalized, and discusses how such changes were related to state legitimation, gender order, and social life. Based on cases from county and national-level archives, Tristan Brown documents the imperial state’s participation in a traditional divinatory “science” (bazi) and its role in legitimizing family strategies. Building on careful examination of propaganda films on marriage reform, Xian Wang argues that the primary goal of the Marriage Law of 1950 was to reshape the family-state relationship rather than to liberate women. Deploying family letters and archival sources, Yanjie Huang studies how Shanghai families negotiated an end to family separation in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution. All together, these papers demonstrate that family-state relations in late imperial and modern China centered on negotiation between state policies and family strategies. While the state projected ideological dominance over family life, these state-family interactions eventually subverted the official ideology of Communism.
Paper Presenter: Tristan Brown – Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Paper Presenter: Yue Du – Cornell University
Paper Presenter: Xian Wang – University of Notre Dame
Paper Presenter: Yanjie Huang – Columbia University