Friday, February 5, 2021

New Book by Frank He: Divorce in China: Institutional Constraints and Gendered Outcomes (NYU Press)

Divorce in China: Institutional Constraints and Gendered Outcomes
Published in January 2021
304 pp.
Description: Why are women still at a disadvantage in Chinese divorce courts?
Despite the increase of gender consciousness in Chinese society and a trove of legislation to protect women, why are Chinese women still disadvantaged in divorce courts? Xin He argues that institutional constraints to which judges are subject, a factor largely ignored by existing literature, play a crucial role. Twisting the divorce law practices are the bureaucratic incentives of courts and their political concerns for social stability. Because of these concerns, judges often choose the most efficient, and safest, way to handle issues in divorce cases. In so doing, they allow the forces of inequality in social, economic, cultural, and political areas to infiltrate their decisions. Divorce requests are delayed; domestic violence is trivialized; and women’s child custody is sacrificed. The institutional failure to enforce the laws has become a major obstacle to gender justice.
     Divorce in China is the only study of Chinese divorce cases based on fieldwork and interviews conducted inside Chinese courtrooms over the course of a decade. With an unusual vantage point, Xin He offers a rare and unfiltered view of the operation of Chinese courts in the authoritarian regime. Through a socio-legal perspective highlighting the richness, sophistication, and cutting-edge nature of the research, Divorce in China is as much an account of Chinese courts in action as a social ethnography of China in the midst of momentous social change.
  • Xin He’s book is a monumental achievement— drawing on close observation of courts in two very different regions of China as well as a deep engagement with a broad range of scholarly literature, both China specific and more general, about gender, judging, authoritarianism and much more. Divorce in China will be a classic, both as concerns its immediate subject, and state and society in China in general. ~William P. Alford, Jerome A. and Joan L. Cohen Professor of East Asian Legal Studies, Harvard Law School
  • An excellent and absorbing examination, based in substantial part on fieldwork sources, of the handling of divorce cases in China today. Xin He builds on his earlier impressive analyses of divorce litigation and gender to offer very important insights into law and gender in the People's Republic. In this important book he concludes that, sadly, the divorce decision-making process in and around the courts has tended to buttress rather than relieve long-standing prejudices against women in contemporary Chinese society. This study is essential reading for all those concerned with social and legal developments in the PRC today. ~Michael Palmer, University of London
Professor He's book was featured in a story in The Economist on 27 May 2021 in an article titled "Chinese divorce courts are places of peril for women".

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