Performative family: homosexuality, marriage and intergenerational dynamics in China
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AbstractUsing in-depth interview data on nominal marriages - legal marriages between a gay man and a lesbian to give the appearance of heterosexuality - this paper develops the concept of performative family to explain the processes through which parents and their adult children negotiate and resolve disagreements in relation to marriage decisions in post-socialist China. We identify three mechanisms - network pressure, a revised discourse of filial piety and resource leverage - through which parents influence their gay offspring's decision to turn to nominal marriage. We also delineate six strategies, namely minimizing network participation, changing expectations, making partial concessions, drawing the line, delaying decisions and ending the marriage, by which gay people in nominal marriages attempt to meet parental expectations while simultaneously retaining a degree of autonomy. Through these interactions, we argue that Chinese parents and their gay adult children implicitly and explicitly collaborate to perform family, emphasizing the importance of formally meeting society's expectations about marriage rather than substantively yielding to its demands. We also argue that the performative family is a pragmatic response to the tension between the persistent centrality of family and marriage and the rising tide of individualism in postsocialist China. We believe that our findings highlight the specific predicament of homosexual people. They also shed light on the more general dynamics of intergenerational negotiation because there is evidence that the mechanisms used by parents to exert influence may well be similar between gay and non-gay people.
All Author(s) ListChoi SYP, Luo M
Journal nameBritish Journal of Sociology
Volume Number67
Issue Number2
Pages260 - 280
LanguagesEnglish-United Kingdom
KeywordsChina; Family; homosexuality; intergenerational relationship; marriage
Web of Science Subject CategoriesSociology

Last updated on 2021-13-09 at 00:46