Alex Payette Banting Post-Doctoral Fellow University of Toronto

Dr Alex Payette holds a Ph.D. in comparative politics and international relations (Ottawa University) and previously held a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at the University of Montreal. His research interests focus around Chinese domestic politics, mainly in regards to internal changes in the logic of local governance and in terms of authoritarian resilience mechanisms of the Chinese Party-State. He previously published in the Canadian Journal of Political Science, International Journal of China Studies, China Report, East Asia: An International Quarterly, Asiatische Studien, Journal of Contemporary Eastern Asia, Issues and Studies and Hong Kong Journal of Social Science, to name but a few.

China is currently facing a care crisis. While the Cultural Revolution sought to break down China’s familialist society and build institutions for the tasks formerly performed by family members, shifting demographics created a large aging population devoid of elder care. With the Party-State now unable and possibly unwilling to fulfil the need, a number of civil society groups, some of them rooting themselves in a reclaimed Confucian tradition, have emerged to challenge the rising voices pushing for a more institutional version of the care economy. These groups’ discourses appear to run counter both to institutional care developments in China since the mid-twentieth century and to the broader global trends commodifying care work.

Hence, my project seeks to study the impact these local Confucian groups are having on China’s care economy. In so doing, it will speak to the enduring struggle between family and the state in private matters and decipher the meanings of care in the context of a traditional ethos in conflict with an accelerated modernization. Therefore, this research aims to understand the role of local Confucian groups in the ongoing care crisis since the early 2000s. It plans to address several questions of which we can retain three for the time being: 1) How does the current Confucian revival affect the development of the care sector?; 2) How do these groups attempt to shape local care economies?; 3) How do they influence the provision, understanding and responsibility of care in both rural and urban areas?

One of the manifest objective of the project will be to better measure the growth and orientation of the Confucian revival, identify similarities and differences between rural and urban groups in regards to their impacts on the local care economy and how both relate to the contemporary local Confucian revival. Critically, this research will address much more explicitly the care crisis as one of the underlying pressures behind the revival and as one of the forces shaping the teachings and activities of those involved in twenty-first century Confucianism in China.

In a broader comparative perspective, anticipated conclusions should prove to be relevant for the understanding of the tensions between traditional and institutional care and for the issue of the state’s retrenchment/non-engagement in care provision in places where traditional structures are moving away from their functions.

Selected relevant publications

  • Payette, Alex [李翰林]. 2016. 深圳孔聖堂的儒教實踐與道德治理 [Shenzhen’s Kongshentang religious Confucianism and Moral Governance]. 香港社會科學學報 [Hong Kong Social Science Journal] 48: 3-32
  • Payette, Alex. 2016. Local Confucian revival in China: ritual teachings, “Confucian” learning and cultural resistance in Shandong. China Report 52(1): 1-18
  • Payette, Alex. 2016. “Countryside Confucianism”: organising the Confucian revival, saving the villages and Cultural authority in Qufu. East Asia: An International Quarterly 33(2): 73-90
  • Payette, Alex. 2015. Le retour de l’académie impériale dans la construction de la société harmonieuse: le Hall des études nationales du devenir vertueux [Imperial Academy’s return into harmonious society’s construction]. Asiatische Studien – Études Asiatiques [Asian Studies] 69 (1):  19-45
  • Payette, Alex. 2015. Renouveau confucéen et «care»: tension entre obligation et besoin [Confucian renewal and “care”: tension between obligation and need]. Monde Chinois Nouvelle Asie. 41:  64-71
  • Payette, Alex. 2012. “Le renouveau religieux du confucianisme en Chine : une revue des débats académiques récents [The religious renewal of Confucianism in China : a review of recent debates]”. Le Monde Chinois Nouvelle Asie 29 : 118-26


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