China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

4 - Love Experts: A Case Study of Relationship Counseling Company in Contemporary China

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Park Tower 8226, Lobby Level

Love and marriage in urban China have become increasingly volatile. Capitalizing on the public’s anxiety over the soaring divorce rate and women’s pressure to marry early, start-up companies, providing counselling for the singles and couples with relationship conflict, break-up and divorce issues, have flourished within the last decade. Such counselling services often rely on the (in)articulated promise of a better self, which are presented as reachable if the individuals follow the consultants’ prescriptive advices and work for self-improvement, from body control, emotion management to communication skills. Situating the relationship counselling in the context of “commercialization of intimate life” (Hochschild), this paper drills down to the micro level aspects of the commodification of love, intimacy, and care which is part and parcel of neoliberal social life. Drawing on fifteen semi-structure interviews with relationship counselors and internship experience in a relationship counselling company in China, this paper incorporates analysis from three perspectives: What solutions these relationship consultants prescribe to deal with clients’ troubled intimate relationships? What kinds of self are desired when intimate romantic relationships are conceptualized as in need of measurement, investments and work? What kinds of self-improvement are required to begin, to maintain or to save an intimate relationship? Ultimately, this paper teases out how the relationship consultants draw from and merge with the cultural matrix of the neoliberal market and thus come to orient the self, provide it with strategies of action, and more crucially, shape new subjectivities in intimate romantic relationships.


 

Haiping Liu

Chinese University of Hong Kong, Not Applicable, Hong Kong

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4 - Love Experts: A Case Study of Relationship Counseling Company in Contemporary China



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