The Task of Being Content: Expatriate Wives in Beijing, Emotional Work and Patriarchal Bargain
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AbstractBased upon an ethnographic study of western expatriate (expat) wives in Beijing, this paper describes these women’s ‘patriarchal bargain’ and the emotional labor it involves. Relocation entails pressures to support the husbands’ careers in various ways, interruption of their working and social life, and increased economic and social dependency. At the same time, however, it also allows them to enjoy leisure and prestige, and to conduct a privileged life style. This bargain demands an emotional labor on the women’s part: an ongoing effort to feel good with their life in Beijing. The study focuses on the strategies the women use in order to cope with ambivalence, to be content, and to demonstrate contentment.