technical paper

AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Engendering aixin: philanthropy and gendered practice of compassion in postsocialist China





The past thirty years has witnessed a phenomenal growth of philanthropic activities in the form of education aid, disaster relief, poverty alleviation and so forth in China. As one of the state-promoted virtues since the late 1980s, the notion of aixin (loving heart) has become the widely recognized discourse and virtue that explains altruistic good deeds and has been central to the state’s evaluation of desirable citizens. Nevertheless, the state-promoted virtue of aixin has never evenly distributed among Chinese citizens. Rather, it is a class-based program that often motivates the urban middle-class to “hand down” their aixin to the poor and the disadvantaged. It is also a highly gendered program that often associates aixin with the normative yet stereotypical image of women who are perceived to be caring, loving and compassionate. The aim of this paper is two folds. First, it unpacks the gendered processes of the emergence of aixin in the field of philanthropy when the masculine image of a socialist man who dares to sacrifice his life for a just/socialist cause was replaced by feminized image of women who embody the virtue of aixin. Second, through ethnographic studies of women who work in philanthropy, I argue the feminization of the field of philanthropy also result from the postsocialist condition when women, including the middle-class women, are pushed to take less-demanding and more flexible jobs so they can take care of their families.


Transcript English (automatic)

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