Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationBrandeis U.
Grant numberGr. 10455
Approve DateOctober 11, 2022
Project TitleWen, Hui (Brandeis U.) "Supplements of Care: Fashioning Self-eldercare in a Care Vacuum amid Historical Discontinuity"
This project explores how urban seniors in China actively participate in the supplements market as a form of self-care during a historical juncture when traditional family support systems are receding and once-promised state eldercare services are limited. Behind this care vacuum is a confluence of several factors including the One Child Policy (1980–2015), urbanization and rural-to-urban migration, and the looming pension crisis at the state level. As a result, the local supplements market has stepped in and gained huge success over the past fifteen years. With unprecedented enthusiasm, senior people have embraced the supplements market and have contributed to more than $30 billion in revenue in 2020. This dissertation research proposes to study how urban elders, who seek to maintain a healthy and well-functioning body, actively participate in the supplements market to express their aspirations and desires in later stages of life, to compensate their unsatisfiable emotional expectations from children, and to reconcile their socialist experiences in a capitalist market. Based on ethnographic methodology involving participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and archival research, this project explores the mentality of growing old, forms of self-care, and the human drive to create meaningful lives in an unfamiliar world.