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Dr. Jean-Baptiste Pettier


Freie Universität Berlin

Dahlem Research School

CRC 1171 "Affective Societies"

Postdoctoral Fellow

Habelschwerdter Allee 45
14195 Berlin

Brief personal description 

Doctor in social anthropology with a large interdisciplinary background in social sciences and a specialization in Chinese society, my main research thematics concern sentiments, affect, and morality, and their relationships with political and economic conditions.

Academic Education

2015 PhD in Social Anthropology and Ethnology of the EHESS Paris (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, France), with a specific ‘European PhD’ label and highest honors.

PhD dissertation: « Les guerres sentimentales. Anthropologie morale du marché matrimonial de la Chine urbaine des années 2000 » [The Sentimental Wars. A Moral Anthropology of China’s Urban Marriage Market in the Years 2000s.]

Master of Arts Degrees


MA in Political Sciences, Compared Politics of Asia, at Sciences Po Paris, with high honors.

MA dissertation: « Pouvoir politique local et encadrement des vies privées en République Populaire de Chine. L'exemple de la politique de l'enfant unique dans la province du Sichuan. » [Local Political Power and the Supervision of Private Lives in Contemporary China. The Case of the One-Child Policy in Sichuan Province.]

2007 MA in Anthropology, at the EHESS Paris, with highest honors.

MA dissertation: « Construire sa vie. Parcours personnels, relations amoureuses et questions sexuelles au sein de groupes d'étudiants et de jeunes travailleurs à Pékin. » [Constructing One's Life. Personal Careers, Love Relationships, and Sexual Issues Amongst Groups of Students and Workers in Beijing.]

Bachelor of Arts Degrees

2009 BA in Chinese Language and Civilization, from Langues'O [French National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations (INALCO), Paris.]
2005 BA in Political Sciences, from Université Lyon 2.
2005 BA in Sociology and Anthropology, from Université Lyon 2.

Academic Work Experience

2021-2024 P.I. of personal project, financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Freie Universität Berlin. Germany.
2020/04-2020/09 Visiting Professor (W2 Vertretungsprofessor) for Public Anthropology. University of Bremen. Germany.
2017-2019 Dahlem Research School Postdoctoral Fellow at the Free University of Berlin, Germany. Employed within the Affective Societies Collaborative Research Center.
2015-2017  Postdoc Research Fellow at the Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology of the University of Cologne, Germany.
2014-2015 Research Fellow and Junior Scientific Coordinator at the Political Sciences Department of Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany, within the Interdisciplinary Center for East Asian Studies [Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für Ostasienstudien], for the interdisciplinary research program "Protecting the Weak", financed by the Volkswagen Foundation.
2012-2014 Temporary Assistant Professor (ATER) in Political Sciences at the Université Paris Est Créteil (UPEC), France, in the department of International Exchange and Administration.
2011 Adjunct professor in charge of a course on Anthropology of East Asia (China, Korea, Japan) for undergraduate students at Université Paris 8, France.
2007-2010 PhD contract from the French National Ministry for Higher Education and Research.


Current Research Project:

Desire Economics: Affect and Social Competition in Chinese Megacities


Previous Research Project (PhD defended at the EHESS in October 2015):

The Sentimental Wars. A Moral Anthropology of China’s Urban Marriage Market in the Years 2000s.

This ethnographic study, based on fieldwork research carried out in Beijing and Chengdu between 2006 and 2010, explored the transformation of the urban marriage market in China. It did so through the prism of one social institution : the xiāngqīn, a traditional form of marriage intermediation, which is presently undergoing a reinvention. Through a series of places (marriage agencies, parental and bachelors’ gatherings), my study examined a number of twentieth century key issues (the opposition to arranged marriages, the political place of love, the importance of social ties (guānxì), the role of traditional thoughts like "confucianism", etc.) The study examined this phenomenon in its actuality and its transversality, giving accounts of its social, economic, and historical dimensions, and awarding a particular importance to what I name the "affective scope" of the research. The study revealed the "sentimental politics" behind it, as they were helpful to think the social and cultural discriminations it holds. It payed careful attention to the intellectual debates concerning the place awarded to love in the Chinese society, which have been particularly relevant through the modernization process. Furthermore, it elaborated a critical analysis of their present uses. Through them, and through the omnipresent moral debates on today's China’s public stage, the transformation of the Chinese subject is observed. The study of this phenomenon therefore allows an exploration of the social and personal consequences of the political, economic, and demographic changes experienced by Chinese society from thirty years onward and the pressure it induced on the younger generations.

Peer-reviewed Articles

2020 "Saving China’s Dogs. Social Transformation and Moral Conflicts in Chinese Society.” Critical Asian Studies 53(1): 1-18.


“Marrying the Perfect Child. Middle Class Norms and Intergenerational Arrangements in the Marriage Corners of Urban China.” Ethnography 0(0): 1-22.


“La réinvention des marieuses. Ethnographie d’une agence matrimoniale en Chine urbaine,” L’Homme 229: 77-98.

“The reinvention of matchmakers. Ethnography of a Marriage Agency in Urban China,” L’Homme 229: I-XXII.

“Re-Enchanting the World: Seahorses’ Magic and the Global Trade of Affect for Wildlife,” in Michael Bollig and Stefanie Gänger (eds.), “Forum: Commodifying the “Wild”: Anxiety, Ecology and Authenticity in the Late Modern Era,Environmental History 24(4): 711-717.


“The reinvention of matchmakers. Ethnography of a Marriage Agency in Urban China,” L’Homme229: I-XXII.

“La morale et le désir. Sexualité, genre et inégalité en Chine.” Autrepart 86: 3-21.

“Morality and Desire. Sexuality, Gender and Inequality in Contemporary China,” Autrepart86: I-XVIII.

2017 « La fatalité des meiren: Usages de l’histoire des marieuses traditionnelles comme justification à l’intermédiation matrimoniale en Chine contemporaine » [The Fate of Meiren: Uses of the History of Traditional Matchmakers as a Justification for Marriage Brokering in Contemporary China], Études Chinoises, 2017-1 (XXXVI-I).
2016 "The Affective Scope: Entering China’s Urban Moral and Economic World through Its Emotional Disturbances", Anthropology of Consciousness, 2016, Vol. 27(1): 75-96.


« Politiques de l’amour et du sexe dans la Chine de la « révolution sexuelle » [Politics of love and sex in the China of the "sexual revolution"], in Genre, Sexualité et Société [Online], n°3 "Révolution / Libération" | Spring 2010

Book Chapters


"Animal Protection in China and Japan. The ambiguous status of companion animals in rapidly changing societies", co-authored with Kazushige Doi, as part of the forthcoming volume "Protecting the Weak", edited by Amelung & al., to be published by Routledge.


« Ambivalences affectives. Le critère sentimental dans le choix du conjoint en Chine urbaine contemporaine » ["Affective Ambivalences. The Sentimental Criteria in Mate Choice in Today’s Urban China"], in Capdeville, Catherine and Delphine Ortis, Les institutions de l’amour: Cour, amour, mariage. Enquêtes anthropologiques en Asie et à Madagascar ["Institutions of Love: Courtship, Love and Marriage in Asia and Madagascar"] [in French], Paris: Presses de l’Inalco.

Articles / Published Working Papers


“Love: Culturally Specific or Universal?,” in Hermann Kappelhoff, Jan-Hendrik Bakels, Christina Schmitt, and Hauke Lehmann (eds.), Emotionen. Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch [Emotions. An interdisciplinary handbook], Stuttgart/Weimar: J.B. Metzler: 195-199.

2016 "Who is the Weak? A Critical Examination of the Construction of ‘Weak’ and ‘Strong’ Interests From the Case of Dog Protection in Chinese Society", Frankfurt Working Papers on East Asia, number 10.

Book Reviews

2015 "Steinmüller Hans, Communities of Complicity: Everyday Ethics in Rural China", Études Chinoises 2015 (2) [in French].

"Moore Henrietta, Still life: Hopes, Desires, and Satisfactions", Genre, sexualité & société [Online], 8 | Autumn 2012 [in French].



“Teaching Anthropology: Lessons from the Beginning of the Corona Pandemic. A First Retrospective Account of Synchronous Online Teaching” Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie Mitteilungen [Bulletin of the German Anthropological Association] 53 (August 2020): 53-56.



“Affective Societies, affected scientists! Five questions to Jean-Baptiste Pettier:” Interview for the ‘Affective Societies’ Collaborative Research Center's blog:

Research Outcome


PhD dissertation: “Les guerres sentimentales. Anthropologie morale du marché matrimonial de la Chine urbaine des années 2000.” (617 pages) French Open Archives Repository HAL: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/tel-01972770/document