1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Filial Obsessions: Desire and Chinese Patriliny

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  • Location of Talk:  Monroe Hall 103

Studies of Chinese kinship, descent, gender, family organization, ancestor worship, and filial piety – mainstays in the anthropology of “traditional” Chinese society – have generally approached patriliny as, in effect, an irreducible marker of cultural difference – a beginning point for analysis, but not a phenomenon that might itself be analyzed or explained in more general or comparative terms. In contrast, I argue that Chinese patriliny is better approached as a topic of critical inquiry in its own right rather than as the cultural premise from which much of social life derives.  To this end, drawing inspiration from Marxian and psychoanalytic traditions, I argue that Chinese patriliny is intelligible as an “instituted fantasy” and, simultaneously, as a “mode of production of desire.”  From this vantage I show that Chinese patriliny –an undeniably culturally distinctive phenomenon – nonetheless embodies processes which link individual agency and motive to framing social institutional contexts best conceived in theoretical terms applicable to cultures everywhere.

East Asian Center Event , co-sponsored by Department of Anthropology.

Event Date: 
Friday, 7 November 2014 - 4:00pm to 6:00pm
P. Steve Sangren
Speaker Title: 
Professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies, Cornell University