Course Code


Course Name

Selected Themes on Anthropology


Thursday 1:30-4:15pm


YIA 503


Lynn SUN

Teaching Assistant

Mavis SIU

Course Description

This course introduces anthropological perspectives on a range of intimate relationships in contemporary Chinese society. It seeks to denaturalize notions such as family, marriage and love through contextualization–putting them back in the historical, political and socio-cultural context in which they are embedded. The questions that will be raised in class include: What factors shape the economic and social formations of intimate relationships in contemporary China? What does it mean
to say that romantic love is an ideology? How do Chinese people “do” family today? Are intimate relationships formed in the virtual world any less authentic than those formed in the real world?

The course approaches various kinds of intimate relationships through an anthropological lens, which means that we will explore people’s intimate life experiences via ethnography. Based on a series of captivating readings, video clips, discussions and other class activities, this course invites the students to pay attention to the interconnectedness between the “private” and the “public” — the everyday practices and the economic and socio-political processes. Moreover, this course aims to show how to conduct ethnographic fieldwork and how to use the data collected during fieldwork for analyzing intimate relationships in Chinese society.

Course Outline

Detailed Course Outline is available on Blackboard.

Week 1: An Anthropological Approach to Intimate Relationships in Contemporary China

Week 2: Constructing Ideals: Changing Public Discourses Surrounding Family, Love
and Sexuality I

Week 3: Constructing Ideals: Changing Public Discourses Surrounding Family, Love
and Sexuality II

Week 4: Learning Ethnographic Methods for Studying Everyday Intimate Experiences

Week 5: Courtship, Love and Premarital Sex

Week 6: The Politics of Conjugal Relationship I (gender dynamics)

Week 7: The Politics of Conjugal Relationship II (Love and Sexuality)

Week 8: The Politics of Conjugal Relationship III (economic aspect)

Week 9: Intergenerational Relationship I: Parenting

Week 10: Intergenerational Relationship II: Filial Piety

Week 11: The Ethics of Intimacy

Week 12: Beyond Nominal Family and Marriage: Sexuality and Performativity

Week 13: Individual Consultation Sessions

Assessment & Assignments

Attendance and participation (15%)

Discussion Facilitation (20%)

Reflection Paper (25%)

Research Paper (10%+30%)

Honesty in Academic Work

Attention is drawn to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to breaches of such policy and regulations. Details may be found at

With each assignment, students will be required to submit a signed declaration that they are aware of these policies, regulations, guidelines and procedures.

  • In the case of group projects, all members of the group should be asked to sign the declaration, each of whom is responsible and liable to disciplinary actions, irrespective of whether he/she has signed the declaration and whether he/she has contributed, directly or indirectly, to the problematic contents.
  • For assignments in the form of a computer-generated document that is principally text-based and submitted via VeriGuide, the statement, in the form of a receipt, will be issued by the system upon students’ uploading of the soft copy of the assignment.

Assignments without the properly signed declaration will not be graded by teachers.

Only the final version of the assignment should be submitted via VeriGuide.

The submission of a piece of work, or a part of a piece of work, for more than one purpose (e.g. to satisfy the requirements in two different courses) without declaration to this effect shall be regarded as having committed undeclared multiple submissions. It is common and acceptable to reuse a turn of phrase or a sentence or two from one’s own work; but wholesale reuse is problematic. In any case, agreement from the course teacher(s) concerned should be obtained prior to the submission of the piece of work.