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An Anthropological Talk by Lynn Sun

The Happiness Impasse: Exploring Middle-class Women's Pursuits of Marital Happiness in Urban China and Japan

Friday 25 June 2021, 7:00pm
Hong Kong Museum of History
Lecture Hall, Ground Floor, 100 Chatham Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

"Why on earth do we marry nowadays if not for a happier life?" Many "middle-class" young women living in Tokyo and Shanghai today, whom this talk is centered, entered marriage expecting that there exists something called "marital happiness". However, what does this "marital happiness" actually mean? More curiously, in the two years of fieldwork to find the answer to this question, what was heard and observed the most was marital unhappiness. Then why did most informants enter wedlock expecting happiness, yet their narratives often reveal quite the opposite? This talk thus seeks, through an ethnographic lens, to capture the simultaneous aspiration and anxiety "marital happiness" casts upon its pursuers in Shanghai and Tokyo. Instead of asking what marital happiness is and offering yet another fixed definition or code of it as many other works have done, the primary question this talk addresses is: What does "marital happiness" do?

Lynn Sun received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2021. Her research interests include psychological anthropology, anthropology of ethics, happiness, and intimate relationships in China and Japan. She is currently teaching courses on gender, intimacy, marriage, and family at the Centre for China Studies and the Department of Anthropology at CUHK.



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