Singles in Shanghai
26 November 2014
A conference on the situation of single women in Shanghai has been organised by the international research network SINGLE, coordinated by media anthropologist Prof. Dr. Christiane Brosius from Heidelberg University. It is the first major event of the new EU-funded research network in which a dozen scholars from various countries are analysing the transformation of the image of single women in Asian mega-cities and the impacts this transformation has. The meeting, which takes place in Shanghai from December 4 to 6, 2014, focuses on the social challenges and precarious conditions women face in one of the largest cities in the world.
“In emerging countries such as India and China, more and more women are moving from the countryside to the cities – whether they are low-wage workers or high performers in the creative industries. Although they contribute significantly to economic growth, these single women are often discriminated against both socially and economically,” explains Prof. Christiane Brosius from the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies. According to the researcher, there is now even a term for these women in China: “Sheng nu” refers to “leftover ladies” beyond the age of 30 years. Responding to this trend, television channels broadcast programmes to find husbands for them, adds the media anthropologist. “Meanwhile, many single women are adjusting to the image of women as presented in advertisements and mass media, which is strongly influenced by the West. Their reality, however, is often very different.”
At the meeting in Shanghai, the scholars will discuss with artists and filmmakers the ways in which single women are encouraged but also discriminated against. In particular, they will address the question of how the women’s self-image, including their attitude towards sexuality, changes due to migration, new labour markets and consumer worlds. At the same time, the participants are keen to learn how these women, sometimes also referred to as “New Asian Women”, influence the gender roles and negotiate equal rights for men and women in various fields. In her opening speech, Prof. Josephine Ho from the National Central University (Taiwan) will thus also discuss how the situation of the family is rapidly changing in China. Moreover, the documentary film “Women” by Walker Lee on feminism and art in Shanghai will be screened. The conference, which is titled “Precariously Yours: Gender, Class, and Urbanity in Contemporary Shanghai”, will take place at the Fei Contemporary Art Centre.
The research network “Creating the ‘New’ Asian Woman: Entanglements of Urban Space, Cultural Encounters and Gendered Identities in Shanghai and Delhi”, in short SINGLE, examines in three research projects the autonomy, respectability and precariousness among single women in Shanghai and Delhi. Besides Christiane Brosius, Dr. Melissa Butcher (The Open University, Great Britain) and Prof. Dr. Jeroen de Kloet (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands) are coordinating the research network. Established in autumn 2013, the research network is funded within the EU programme “Humanities in the European Research Area” by the German Ministry of Education and Research with 530,000 euros.