A Humanities Online Reading Course
Session Two|09.03.2023|4-6pm (HKT)
CHOW Yiu Fai
CHOW Yiu Fai is Professor at the Department of Humanities and Creative Writing, Hong Kong Baptist University. His publications cover gender politics and creative practices, including Caring in the Time of Precarity: A Study of Single Women Doing Creative Work in Shanghai (Palgrave 2019) and Sonic Multiplicities: Hong Kong Pop and the Global Circulation of Sound and Image (Intellect 2013, co-authored). Chow is also an award-winning writer in lyrics and prose. He has penned more than 1,000 lyrics for a variety of artists in Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. Lately, he is increasingly involved in multi-media projects.
Chow, Y. (2018). Living on My Own, Creatively, Precariously. In Caring in Times of Precarity: A Study of Single Women Doing Creative Work in Shanghai (pp. 1-50). Germany: Springer.
*Reading will be provided upon successful registration.
When thinking of people working in creative business, people tend to imagine a person who lives a bohemian lifestyle, enjoying freedom from a dull office routine or repetitive schedule. Yet anyone who comes from that line of work would tell you that there are few times such an impression is true. Creative work not only requires inspiration generated from one’s talent, but also long hours of constant practice. Even if one is lucky enough to have both talent and diligence, most of the time, he or she is still paying to the myth of such freedom with a great deal of precarity. That is especially true if this particular person’s pronoun is “she”, and who happens to be single. Things could get even more complicated if she finds herself in contemporary China.
-A Summary Review by Eric Feng with support from Jose Duke Bagulaya
Reading & Discussion
Why has creative work become a prime site to investigate the contemporary mechanisms and ramifications of precarity and precarization? If this is a problem for creative business, what can be done to solve it?
At the end of this chapter, Chow quoted Lu Xun’s “Shanghai Girls”, showing that as early as the 1930s, Shanghai had provided a space for people to choose a precarious yet creative life. Does this geographical significance still exist in this digitalized interconnected era?
...To summarize: the senses of the word “care” that involve “others” are declined in favor of care for “oneself.” The book is titled Caring in Times of Precarity, but this does not mean something like “seeking to ameliorate the suffering of those marginalized by contemporary regimes of governance.” Indeed, it appears that the turn from others to the self is the primary context in which the topos of care emerges as a consideration in this text. Considerations of “care work” are absent, producing a contrast with the examples of care and caring we encountered in our previous discussion, primarily related to children, the ill, and the elderly.
Feel free to write down any questions or comments regarding the reading materials for Session 2 HERE.
The discussion ends with the Chinese words for precarity, 摇摇欲坠 (Yao Yao Yu Zhui), which literally means ‘about to fall.’
There is something playful about the words yao yao (almost) that balances with yu zhui (to fall). It is poetic. The precarity carries a kind of playfulness to it. And it's not about being the victim. But it's a new form of making do.
I’m overjoyed to read this chapter as a single mother with 3 children. People made the same generational mistakes. And to think of the US. as a big melting pot, there are a lot of ethnic and religious differences in the pressure on marriage. They call the leftover woman in Japan the “Christmas cake”, which is a woman over 25. It means the cake is stale. That's their version of the pressure to marry.
And the context that we're referring to is something that is really lacking in other places where there has been this process of delegation to welfare, state structures, union structures, and so on and so forth. And so there's a kind of a hollowing out of human capacity to do exactly the sorts of things that this book describes.
Thank you Yiu Fai and friends for joining us last Thursday at Theorizing Care Session Two ❤️. Probing into stories from Chinese women doing creative work in cities to their counterparts in different parts of the world on the day after the International Women’s Day was just RIGHT ON TIME! The point is not to frame those women as victims, but to listen to their story as a human and acknowledge their effort they give to themselves when living in the times of precarity.