Project 1:Gendered and sexualized guanxi: the use of erotic capital in the workplace in urban China
This research discloses a gendered and sexualized dynamic in instrumental guanxi through an ethnographic study of white-collar workers in Shenzhen, an urban city just north of the border with Hong Kong. The notion of instrumental guanxi refers to a means of achieving tangible benefits in the workplace through purposively built enduring interpersonal relationships. This study is focused on female white-collar employees born after the onset of China's economic reform, and in particular women who work as marketing executives. The concept of erotic capital is incorporated into the theoretical framework of gendered and sexualized guanxi deployed in this thesis. The discussion of erotic capital in the following chapters is integrated into a resource theory of social exchange. The thesis answers the question concerning how women's guanxi strategy is different from men's. In doing so the thesis examines the male-centred standardized routine of guanxi in part through a detailed analysis of banquets and post-banquet activities that usually involve women as subordinate "erotic gifts". The discussion goes on to identify an additional four ideal-type characterizations of women as equal guanxi participants, navigating instrumental guanxi by deploying different strategies associated with each type. These types are "pseudo-brothers", "rational legal professionals", "the unreachable desired", and "unspoken rules followers". The thesis goes on to discuss the blurred boundaries that distinguish these five types of women's guanxi participation strategies by scrutinizing the power-interactive nature of erotic capital and how the endorsement of erotic capital in the workplace interacts with structural constraints that stem from gender norms and family expectations.
The Thesis won the Best Thesis Award 2016-2018 (M.Phil. category) of the Hong Kong Sociological Association (HKSA)
I made an audio presentation (8:16min) for the award ceremony.
I have also presented the work in more "standard" forms in different occasion, most thoroughly in the International Gender Studies Seminar Series, Hilary Term 2016-2017 at Lady Margret Hall, University of Oxford.
Project 2: Queering the Chinese Dream
Abstract: Based on my ethnography of Chinese female e-commerce entrepreneurs in 2017, this paper discusses how the crowd start-up and public innovation reform have recently provided a space for the booming of online gendered and queered commerce since 2015. I first introduce Internet-based companies and organizations that facilitate the social networking of LGBT people in China, such as the queer apps BlueD, LesDo, and Rela. Then, I argue that this economic atmosphere has provided a platform for LGBT people to achieve their “Chinese Dream” by establishing private companies. Lastly, I show the negotiations between queer identities and the party-state’s ideal “China Dream,” whose discourse knits individual accomplishments with the authoritarian China as a rising global superpower. The limited, but vibrant, freedom in the cyber, economic sphere and the party-state’s confrontations combine to urge entrepreneurs to reach beyond a pink economy by adopting a postidentity queer strategy in framing their business.
Paper presented in British Sociology Association (BSA) annual conference 2018 and in sensory ethnography form in Association for Asian Studies (AAS) annual conference 2019
Project 3:The quandary of being a liberal Mainlander in Hong Kong
Abstract: Based on in-depth interviews, the paper explores the quandary of being a liberal mainlander in Hong Kong where the pursuit of “democracy” is tightly interlocked with xenophobia against the Mainland Chinese, exemplified by the prevailing derogatory term “locust(蝗蟲)” and “people from the strong country”(強國人) referring to the Mainland Chinese in Hong Kong. The umbrella revolution and LGBTQ rights activities are usually understood under the framework of civic society against an authoritarian regime, which portraits Hong Kong government as the puppet of Beijing. Such a narrative fails to consider the nuances of the reasons and emotions that lead the mainland Chinese participate in Hong Kong “movements”. The paper wishes to understand the subjectivities of Mainland Chinese participants in Hong Kong civic activities: the reasons for them to participate in Hong Kong civic activities as well as their positioning, experiences and struggles in those activities.
I did an installation presentation (combining photography, live music and reading of an academic essay) in Hong Kong Textuality conference at University of Sheffield in January 2019.
Guitar by : Yunlong Zhang, Xi'an Conservatory of Music