Shanni Zhao

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Harvard U.

Grant number

Gr. 9750

Approve Date

October 23, 2018

Project Title

Zhao, Shanni, Harvard U., Cambridge, MA - To aid research on 'Affective State and Civic Intimacy: Public Matchmaking Under Contemporary Chinese Socialism,' supervised by Dr. Jean Comaroff

Preliminary abstract: The proposed study is an ethnography of affect — sentiments, desires, dispositions– mobilization, knowledge and practices of intimacy, and state governance reform exemplified by a public service mechanism within the state-invested matchmaking in urban China. The project asks why and how the Chinese state reinvents matchmaking, traditionally a familial practice, as a public service, which includes the construction of non-enterprise civil organizations (NECOs), collective matchmaking events, self-help workshops on intimacy, workforces of state cadre-matchmakers, consellors, and social workers, and media campaigns. The project seeks to investigate the interconnections between the current state’s intensified interest in marriage-making, the affective work of public servants in matchmaking, and the institutionalization of public service, which pose an apparent discrepancy with the state-initiated privatization of socio-economic life over the last four decades. The result of this study aims to expand anthropological knowledge in four domains: the natures and generative processes of affective labor and its impact on social reproduction; the mutually constitutive relations between intimacy and citizenship; affective governance and state formation; and the hybrid organizational logics of contemporary Chinese Socialist system. The research is based on 14 months of interviews, participant observation, and media archive collection in Beijing and Shanghai across key nodes of public matchmaking including public service agencies/NECOs, events, workshops, training sessions, state officials and documents, young people and families, expositions, art studios, and media cultural products.