Caring in Times of Precarity

New Book Announcement
Yiu Fai Chow, Caring in Times of Precarity: A Study of Single Women Doing Creative Work in Shanghai (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)

“Drawing on a wonderfully eclectic mix of theory and research, Chow hits the reader time and again with critical and humane insights. Caring in Times of Precarity is a major contribution to studies of creative labour, and a brilliant feminist-inspired sociology of women’s lives in contemporary China.”– David Hesmondhalgh, University of Leeds, UK

“This remarkable book makes a timely scholarly intervention. Provocatively, it supplements the standard Leftist critique of creative labour’s neoliberal precarity with attention to the ethics of self-care. With solidarity and deep respect for these women, Chow reveals the complexities and singularities of their social and affective experience, challenging our understanding of Shanghai, the creative classes, and female individualization.”– Fran Martin, University of Melbourne, Australia

Caring in Times of Precarity draws together two key cultural observations: the increase in those living a single life, and the growing attraction of creative careers. Straddling this historical juncture, the book focuses on one particular group of ‘precariat’: single women in Shanghai in various forms of creative (self-)employment. While negotiating their share of the uncanny creative work ethos, these women also find themselves interpellated as shengnü (‘left-over women’) in a society configured by a mix of Confucian values, heterosexual ideals, and global images of womanhood. Following these women’s professional, social and intimate lives, the book refuses to see their singlehood and creative labour as problematic, and them as victims. It departs from dominant thinking on precarity, which foregrounds and critiques the contemporary need to be flexible, mobile, and spontaneous to the extent of (self-)exploitation, accepting insecurity. The book seeks to understand– empirically and specifically–women’s everyday struggles and pleasures. It highlights the up-close, everyday embodied, affective, and subjective experience in a particular Chinese city, with broader, global resonances well beyond China. Exploring the limits of the politics of precarity, the book proposes an ethics of care.

Chow Yiu Fai is Associate Professor at the Department of Humanities and Creative Writing of Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong.

Posted by: Jian Lin <>

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