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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Obliged to Care: Rural Chinese Families, Migration, and the Changing Intergenerational Contract

  • Author(s): Thomason, Erin Elizabeth
  • Advisor(s): Yan, Yunxiang
  • et al.

Based on eleven months of ethnographic fieldwork in rural Henan province, this dissertation fleshes out the multiple ways that families have reorganized their emotional and economic resources in response to rural development and internal migration. I consider how traditional gender and age-based hierarchies are transformed and reworked within village life. Each chapter in this work focuses on a different intergenerational problem of care. In particular, I investigate family efforts of identity formation, socialization, marriage arrangements, filial piety, and the everyday deployment of painful, collective-era memories. Attending to how families respond to change, and particularly changes in economic and emotional roles within the household, is a critical and important question that adds to our understanding of how development impacts subjectivity and experience.

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