The Shepherd Boy and Weaving Maiden:
Deterritorialized Love and Long-Distance Relationships in Postsocialist Rural China
Eriberto P. Lozada Jr.
Anthropology Program, Butler University
(paper given at the 1999 AAA Annual Meeting in Chicago)
Modernization, transnational capital, and state consolidation in post-socialist China has resulted in enormous changes in Chinese rural social life. Love and romance, the dominant narrative of post-socialist material culture, not only reflects but also enacts these changes that have made even the most rural villager a transnational cosmopolitan. Based on fieldwork conducted in a Catholic village in northern Guangdong from 1993-1997, this paper will examine how young adults search for love in counter-hegemonic ways. Romance in post socialist China, embedded in changing consumption patterns, demonstrates the younger generations’ economic position of strength in relation to their elders. As participants in the flow of labor from rural villages to the regional centers of global capitalism in the special economic zones surrounding Hong Kong, these young men and women are developing a uniquely Chinese modernity as they work and play. This emerging Chinese modernity has resulted in the deterritorialization of rural communities and fundamental shifts in kinship processes. Through the lens of love and romance, this paper will argue that young adults are localizing modernity as they pursue love and the good life. This process of localization, however, challenges individuals to adapt to new strategies in making money, finding a spouse, and carving out a place for themselves in deterritorialized rural communities. Through love and romance, young adults adapt and create cultural forms as they implement their visions of the future.