Roberta Zavoretti is a social anthropologist and the author of Rural Origins, City Lives: Class and Place in Contemporary China (University of Washington Press, 2017). Besides teaching at the University of Cologne and various other universities in Germany, she has extensively published on marriage, intergenerational relations, gender and affective politics in China. Educated in Venice (Ca’ Foscari) and London (SOAS), she has been a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology and is an affiliated member of the Global South Studies Centre in Cologne.
Unofficial Intimacies and Social Reproduction in Urban China My project looks at relations of care and intimacy that take place outside legal kinship and outside direct market transactions in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). PRC state policy and propaganda posits cohabitation without marriage, singlehood, adultery, and divorce as challenging the social and moral order. Bigamy and concubinage are illegal and considered as a legacy of the ‘feudal past’. And yet, adultery and concubinage are widespread, while cohabitation without marriage and divorce are on the rise. Most studies of kinship in China implicitly conceptualise these relations as exceptional, temporary or threatening legal alliances. This project questions such assumptions by exploring the synergy between unofficial intimacies and officially sanctioned forms of alliance and filiation. Drawing from the insights offered by feminist scholarship and care studies, the project conceptualises kinship as a social process of ‘kinning’ (Howell, 2003), rather than as a system of blood-based or legally sanctioned ties.