Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationHarvard U.
Grant numberGr. 9750
Approve DateOctober 23, 2018
Project TitleZhao, 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
SHANNI ZHAO, then a graduate student at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, received a grant in October 2018n to aid research on “Affective State and Civic Intimacy: Public Matchmaking Under Contemporary Chinese Socialism,” supervised by Dr. Jean Comaroff. This project studies the current Chinese state investment in individual marriage particularly through constructing an urban matchmaking enterprise with civil partners. It delves into both the affective and institutional constitutions of the enterprise, and the practices therein, in order to reveal how the state might revitalize marriage or regain affinity to society after four-decade marketization and privatization. While urban marriage is perceived to be in crisis nowadays given falling marriage and fertility rates, it still carries social values of self-worth and “true” adulthood. Mobilizing mass anxieties and longings surrounding marriage, the enterprise could attract over 10,000 participants each year in Chinese metropolises like Beijing and Shanghai. However, it rarely succeeds in producing marriages. Instead, it generates multilayered affective attractions—romantic love, urban belonging and state care, and affective attachments— between men and women, youths and civil agents, and youths and the state. Moreover, individual failures in mate selection produced in participants less an awareness of state or civil agents’ incompetence than that of self-inferiority and an inclination to rely on the civil institutions for intimacies. I conceptualize these processes as a mechanism of affective power, which is becoming an ever-dominant modality of power the state exercises over individuals.