Is the Fatherland Really a Motherland?
Department of Anthropology
University of Washington
The 1990s restructuring of the Chinese economy has seen the reworking of governmentality through a reorganization of "biopower from below." This paper explores ideologies of motherhood as an incitement to urban middle-class women to provide the "affectively necessary labor" in the production of embodied value in their only child. In contrast to this production of the urban middle-class child as the new neoliberal subject is the figure of the migrant whose derogated body is seen to lack the embodied competencies now required for full citizenship. The migrant body is the ghostly double of the urban middle-class child as an inverse figures of value in which value is conceived of as something added to the body in the form of capital inputs rather than inhering in the body itself through its capacity for labor. The secret to China's so-called economic take-off is precisely the extraction of surplus value from migrant bodies not just in the economic realm but in the politico-cognitive (power/knowledge) domain as well as in the desiring economies of middle-class aspiration. In the ideologies of motherhood, we see how aspirations for national transcendence are being reworked in the private sphere in the production of the middle-class child as a new national subject who can stride across national borders with confidence.