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Accepted Paper:

Feeding uncertainties and anxieties: mediating the role of a mother in the dominant “scientific mothering” discourse among middle-class mothers in urban China  
Haiyue (Fiona) Shan (Vrije University Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

This paper reveals the trajectories of young Chinese mothers, their perceptions of modern motherhood values, and individual practices of autonomy by analyzing profound transformations at both family and societal levels in urban China.

Paper long abstract:

The long-standing Chinese philosophy of self-cultivation has dovetailed remarkably with the neoliberal ethics of pursuing for self in contemporary China, that one is not only successful but is also better able to manage emotional and social life. When it comes to parenting in urban settings, parents are required to take charge of their mental health and the development of knowledge to nurture children’s long-term development. In this regard, it is interesting to see that young Chinese mothers are often anxious and uncertain about how to balance between individual desires and social expectations facing a hopeful but uncontrollable future ahead for themselves and their children. Based on in-depth interviews with 43 Chinese women in urban China in 2019, this study reveals an increasing level of maternal anxiety and stress promoted by the dominant discourse of “good” mothering: “scientific mothering” (kexue yu’er). This discourse demonstrates the reasons why young Chinese women perceive today’s childrearing as more challenging and overwhelming that includes the rise of “experts’ authority” as the only “correct” information, self-managed childcare market and information overload in the digital age. These Chinese women make meaning of modern parenting, experience personal growth and demonstrate resilience that help them navigate challenges in motherhood. By exploring the contextual conditions of modern motherhood experiences, this study hopes to make visible the underlying structural issues which so far have acquired limited institutional attention.

Panel P013a
Motherhood Transformed and Transforming; Discussing the role of motherhood(s) and mother work in constructing futures of hope I
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -