Negotiating intimacy and family at distance: Living apart together relationships in China

Shuang Qiu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


People’s intimate relationships are becoming more fluid, uncertain and contingent as a consequence of forces such as globalisation and individualisation (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim, 2002). In a rapidly changing society, such as China, some people keep a committed heterosexual relationship whilst living separately from their partner. The emergence of non-coresidential partnerships, such as couples living apart together (LAT) relationships, challenge the societal assumption of what ‘family’ is and intimacy which is normally closely associated with physical proximity (Jamieson, 2013; Smart, 2007).

The central focus of this chapter is to examine how women in LAT relationships make sense of, negotiate and experience intimacy and family life in contemporary Chinese society, where traditional Confucian familism and prescribed gender relationships are still persistent, although lessening over time. Drawing on qualitative interviews, I look in-depth at the practices of ‘mobile intimacy’ through which people ‘do’ family and sustain relationships in the absence of a partner’s physical co-presence. When considering whether and how far Chinese people have experienced the de-traditionalisation of family and intimacy as described in Western societies, it should take caution to pre-scribed gender norms and the specific social and cultural context in which people are embedded.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNegotiating Families and Personal Lives in the 21st century
Subtitle of host publicationExploring Diversity, Social Change and Inequalities
EditorsSheila Quaid, Catriona Hugman, Angela Wilcock
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781003039433
ISBN (Print)9780367483401
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2021

Publication series

NameSociological Futures


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