Cultural Representations of the One-child Policy in Chinese Literature and Film since 1978
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This dissertation focuses on the cultural representations of the one-child policy ever since 1978. The artistic discourses about the one-child policy provide a fantastic space to explore China’s post-socialist society and contending ideologies. It also sheds light on the intricate relation between aesthetics and politics and these among the state, family and individual. Moreover, as discourses, artistic narratives and images also participate in the redefining of reproduction/one-child policy. Therefore, inquiries into the interaction between aesthetics and politics enrich our understanding of how reproductive ideals are constructed, negotiated and transformed. This dissertation can be divided into five parts. In the introduction part, I introduce issues related to the one-child policy, materials which I use and my main approaches to interpret them. Chapter Two explores how post-1978 family planning films and novel envision the ideal reproductive lives of peasants through the construction of ideal reproductive subjects, especially ideal female models. These artistic works also show changed representations of the ideal role models. Chapter Three looks into the patriarchal reproductive subject in Mo Yan’s Frog which centers on the conflict between state power and traditional male-centric reproductive culture. Although there are ambiguities, the novel demonstrates that the state has failed to transform peasants’ traditional reproductive ideas. Chapter Four deals with women’s exploration of reproduction from the 1980s on. The writings of some female authors demonstrate a consciousness of independent female reproductive desire. In some works, we can even see the emergence of a new kind of female reproductive privacy. In these works, reproduction becomes the female protagonists’ personal, private matter and women’s subjectivity is seen in their ability to make reproductive decisions according to their own interests. In the Coda, I talk about my future research plans. Overall, in this dissertation, I trace the political, economic, cultural, and technical factors that contribute to the gradual emergence of pluralism in reproductive ideas and practices. My dissertation demonstrates the dynamic interaction among different forces affecting reproduction, one of the most strictly controlled realms in Chinese life. Although reproduction is still mainly dictated by the state current two-child policy, a push towards greater individual autonomy is starting to gain momentum.