This research was funded by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation Research Grant and the UC Pacific Rim Research Grant. Xin He also wishes to acknowledge the financial support from a GRF grant of the Hong Kong Government. Special thanks go to the Chinese judges who helped arrange our fieldwork investigations and those who kindly agreed to be interviewed. We are also grateful for the comments of the editors and anonymous reviewers of the Review.
Pragmatic Discourse and Gender Inequality in China
Article first published online: 1 MAY 2013
© 2013 Law and Society Association
Law & Society Review
Volume 47, Issue 2, pages 279–310, June 2013
How to Cite
He, X. and Ng, K. (2013), Pragmatic Discourse and Gender Inequality in China. Law & Society Review, 47: 279–310. doi: 10.1111/lasr.12018
- Issue published online: 1 MAY 2013
- Article first published online: 1 MAY 2013
- Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation Research Grant
- UC Pacific Rim Research Grant
- Hong Kong Government
Using courtroom dialogs from actual court trials in China as data, this article analyzes an emerging “pragmatic discourse,” deployed by judges to assist, but at the same time to constrain divorcing women. Through questions, statements, rebuttals, and other interactional devices, Chinese judges define the premises that underpin the law's understanding of gender equality and women's welfare. By looking at how discourses are deployed by judges and litigants, we link micro linguistic practices to more general social forces and processes. Despite their honest effort to protect women's rights, Chinese judges often inadvertently reinforce and reproduce the patriarchal norm. The data demonstrate how the hegemonic patriarchal order reasserts itself in an institutional forum that is meant to promote gender equality. The interaction of the discourses also highlights the tensions in Chinese society and displays the effect of changing social environment on the legal operation.