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Mothering Expectant Mothers: Consumption, Production, and Two Motherhoods in Contemporary China



Abstract Drawing on four years of field research in Zhengzhou, China with two generations of mothers, older mothers and their younger daughters, who became mothers under the one-child policy, I document in this article the generational differences in opinions about and practices of nourishing the fetus. I examine distinctive practices of younger mothers consuming prenatal vitamins and their mothers' buying fresh food from the farmer's market, and argue that the distinction between the practices of the two generations of mothers lies in their different life experiences with the governing strategies of the Mao and post-Mao Chinese state. I further examine encounters between the two groups of mothers regarding vitamin intake and show how argument itself is one of the important mothering practices in China through which mothers and their adult daughters not only reinforce their own identities as “old mothers” and “modern mothers” but also recognize each others' values. Thus, they form interdependent relationships to mother the third generation. This article contributes to broader literatures in anthropology of one child policy in China and consuming motherhood. [mothering, prenatal nutrition, daughter–mother relationship, one child policy, China]