Different ages, different precarities? A study of single women doing creative work in Shanghai from the perspective of age

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    Two specific developments in our globalized world are of relevance to this project.

    First , increasingly more people do not subscribe to traditional forms of shared living; they lead a single life, often against stigmatization, inconvenience and discrimination. Second , increasingly more people are attracted to the promises of creative work – autonomy, flexibility, satisfaction – and join the creative workforce, often sacrificing more regulated working hours and stronger job security.

    Straddling this historical, precarious juncture, this project builds on the PI’s current research, which covers one particular group of ‘precariat’: single women in Shanghai doing creative work, and their experiences in the often unscrupulous creative work ethos and the (marital) demands of a society configured by Confucian values, heterosexual ideals and global images of womanhood.

    The proposed project goes further by inserting a perspective largely absent in discussions of precarity: age . It does so by inserting ‘age’ into empirical and theoretical studies on singlehood and creative work. How do women of different ages experience and deal with their singlehood and creative work? What are their survival tactics for the present and their images for the future? In short, how does age impact on precarity? Informed by academic and popular discourses that perceive Chinese populations in distinct generations, the current inquiry focuses on women from three age cohorts : wulinghou, qilinghou and jiulinghou (those born in the 50s, 70s and 90s). A total of 45 informants will be recruited, 15 from each age cohort.

    Theoretically, this project fills a research gap by connecting two fields of studies: while studies on the creative class have neglected gender and affective dimensions, studies on single women often privilege the personal and leave behind issues of work. It pushes current debates on precarity beyond the domain of labour towards the domain of life – with its manifestations in different ages.

    The two-year project investigates the lives of creative work and singlehood of these three sub-groups of single women in Shanghai, focusing on their experiences and survival tactics for the present and their aspirations for the future; to compare and synthesize insights thus gained for theoretical reflection on single women and creative work with specific reference to age and precarity; to publish three academic articles; and to use knowledge thus gained for community dissemination and tertiary education.

    A mix of qualitative research methods, consisting of in-depth interviews, participant observation, visual methods, archive research and textual analysis, will be employed.
    Effective start/end date1/01/1831/12/19


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