Patrilineality without Patriarchy: Bridewealth and the dynamics of the new intergenerational family in rural China


11:00 AM - 12:30 PM


  • Time: 11:00-12:30
  • Date: Wednesday, 22 September
  • Venue: HS436 and Zhumu (Please contact for Zhumu details)


Bridewealth is one of the first gifts exchanged between the patriline and an incoming daughter-in-law. Yet it is one of the most visible symbols of the contemporary reversal of traditional age-based authority of mothers-in-law, receiving some of the loudest complaints from older women. Despite these protests, the older generation continues to make sacrifices of time and finances to give expensive burdensome, why does the older generation continue to pay up? Through analysis of ethnographic scenes in rural Henan, I argue that mothers-in-law leverage bridewealth as a critical relational investment in the continuity of the intergenerational family, setting the stage for future responsibilities and leading to a new kind of care, which I argue is part of patrilineality without patriarchy.


Dr Erin Thomason is an Assistant Professor in the Department of China Studies at XJTLU. She is a psychological anthropologist. Her current research focuses on family dynamics in rural China and centers on the way that grandparents adjust to new expectations of caregiving as a result of migration

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