Working Paper 150

Be My Valentine: bouquets, marriage, and middle class hegemony in urban China

Roberta Zavoretti

Abteilung ‚Resilienz und Transformation in Eurasien’

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 150

Drawing on data collected in Nanjing (People’s Republic of China) between 2007 and 2012, this paper analyses the popularisation of Valentine’s Day celebrations in urban China. In present-day China, practices like offering and receiving Valentine’s flowers participate in the production of a model of life based on class distinction and social difference. In accordance with the party/state’s call for the building of a ‘harmonious society’, this model of life naturalises social difference and casts inequality as the consequence of different levels of human quality. As Valentine’s Day celebrations become increasingly popular across different social groups, the ‘middle class way of life’ becomes a hegemonic model, together with specific repertoires for the articulation of feelings and visions of family life. This emerging common sense helps concealing the exploitative reality of the ‘industry of romance’, while at the same time providing a justification for the status quo and a basis for social consent.

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