‘Russian Brides’ and the Politics of National Reproduction in the People’s Republic of China

Speaker: Elena Barabantseva (University of Manchester)


Elena Barabantseva examines China’s developing governing regime of international marriages from the perspective of its sovereign concerns related to population management and national reproduction. She considers these concerns through the analysis of structural, discursive and affective processes informing and shaping the regulations and representations of marriage migrants. By focusing on the official and popular discourses around ‘Russian brides’ juxtaposed with historical, racial and gender factors, she shows how the regulatory framework of marriage migration is informed by the shifting structures of feeling in Chinese society. Intersecting spheres of marriage migration governance reveal how gender norms, race and historical legacies play into state and popular engagements with demographic crisis, national politics of reproduction, and China’s relations with Russia.

Elena Barabantseva is a Senior Lecturer in Chinese International Relations at the University of Manchester. Her research focuses on the questions of nationalism, ethnicity, borders, and citizenship in the context of the People’s Republic of China. She enjoys experimenting with visual research methods and has produced two documentary films – ‘British Born Chinese’ (2015) and ‘Border People’ (2018). She is currently participating in the collaborative China‒Europe research project ‘Immigration and the Transformation of Chinese Society’ (2015‒2019) with the project on marriage migration to China from Russia and Vietnam. Her first book Overseas Chinese, Ethnic Minorities and Nationalism: De-Centering China came out with Routledge (2010). She is co-editor (with William A. Callahan) of China Orders the World: Normative Soft Power and Foreign Policy (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012), of a special issue of Modern China on ‘China’s Old and New Diversities’ (with Frank Pieke), and of a special issue of Cross-Currents on ‘Governing Marriage Migrations in China and Taiwan’(with Xiang Biao and Antonia Chao).