Caring in Times of Precarity draws together two key cultural observations: the increase in those living a single life, and the growing attraction of creative careers. Straddling this historical juncture, the book focuses on one particular group of ‘precariat’: single women in Shanghai in various forms of creative (self-)employment. While negotiating their share of the uncanny creative work ethos, these women also find themselves interpellated as shengnü (‘left-over women’) in a society configured by a mix of Confucian values, heterosexual ideals, and global images of womanhood. Following these women’s professional, social and intimate lives, the book refuses to see their singlehood and creative labour as problematic, and them as victims. It departs from dominant thinking on precarity, which foregrounds and critiques the contemporary need to be flexible, mobile, and spontaneous to the extent of (self-)exploitation, accepting insecurity. The book seeks to understand– empirically and specifically–women’s everyday struggles and pleasures. It highlights the up-close, everyday embodied, affective, and subjective experience in a particular Chinese city, with broader, global resonances well beyond China. Exploring the limits of the politics of precarity, the book proposes an ethics of care.
Chow Yiu Fai is Associate Professor at the Department of Humanities and Creative Writing of Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong.