Caring in the Time of Precarity: A Study of Single Women in the Creative Class of Shanghai

by Dr Yiu Fai CHOW 

We are experiencing two peculiar moments in the globalizing time. First, increasingly more people do not subscribe, whether as a matter of preference, necessity or transition, to more traditional forms of living; they go solo, often against the odds of symbolic stigmatization, practical inconvenience and downright discrimination. Second, increasingly more people are attracted to the promises of creative work – more autonomous, more flexible, more satisfying – and join the creative labour force, again often at the expense of more regulated working hours and stronger job security. Straddling on this historical, precarious juncture, this book zooms in on one particular group of global ‘precariats’: single women in Shanghai who are earning their living as writers, editors, account managers, TV producers and other kinds of creative (self-)employment. While negotiating their share of the uncanny creative work ethos (‘you are as good as your last job’), they also find themselves interpellated as latent or actual shennv (‘left-over women’) in a society configured by a mix of Confucian values, heterosexual ideals and global images of womanhood. How do they do it? Why are they living the lives the way they are? Where do they go to cry, to laugh, to socialize, or to be alone? What are their frustrations, satisfactions and expectations?… Following these women’s professional, social and intimate lives, the book seeks to understand empirically and specifically their everyday struggles and pleasures in a global city like Shanghai, ultimately to offer some insights for the more fundamental question: how (far) can one take care of oneself in the time of precarity.