The Binding Tie: Chinese Intergenerational Relations in Modern Singapore

We Chinese always want the next generation to do better, not to suffer so much, and to enjoy a better standard of living than ourselves ~ quote by an unnamed source in the book

How do different generations of Chinese Singaporeans navigate the societal changes that took place since Singapore became an independent nation and economy? The Binding Tie: Chinese Intergenerational Relations in Modern Singapore by Kristina Gorransson (Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press. 2009) looks at the challenges encountered by the generation that had to transit and toggle between parents, who used dialects and mother tongues differently from themselves, and their own children who were educated under a structured bilingual system of English and Mandarin.

How are arranged marriages of past generations – once considered social mores – judged in terms of moral values in contemporary Singapore? Will custom and rituals survive the onslaught of culture clashes and external influences? Can religions be fixtures of social practices? How do conversions of religion reshuffle social networks and exacerbate family tension?

Extensive fieldwork informs the author and the readers about the forces that could potentially disintegrate kinship, and those which eventually affirm the binds which tie middle-class Chinese families together. It is interesting to note how issues of fertility, ageism, social mobility and the structure and maintenance of the extended family unit are closely examined in the chapter entitled “Renegotiating the Intergenerational Contract”.

The Binding Tie is a good book for anyone interested in intergenerational relationships in Singapore Chinese society today. It will be of interest to researchers and students in a range of fields, including anthropology, sociology, Asian studies, demography, development studies, and family studies.

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