Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Sociology, University of Hong Kong

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2001
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Sociology, Northwestern University
Making Insurance a Way of Life: Chinese Cultural Resistance and Global-Local Dynamics in the Creation of a Life Insurance Market in China

This is an ethnographic case study of how a particular form of rationality and set of values, embedded in the practice of life insurance, are being introduced to a society where the social mentality and morality are in tension with such rationality and values. This research focuses on the Chinese cultural resistance to life insurance and the mechanism through which a local market has been being created. Life insurance in China emerged at the intersection of the local economic reforms and global insurance industry expansion. The dramatic socio-cultural changes in China have increased both physical and economic risks to its population. Nonetheless, life insurance as a risk management is not as well received by the public as the foreign life insurers expected. Based on the premise that perception of risk, security, control, responsibility, life and death is simultaneously a socio-cultural process, this research examines, firstly, how Chinese economic behaviors are embedded in the Chinese socio-cultural repertoire and, secondly, how foreign, joint-venture and domestic life insurers contest and align to exploit and transform the local socio-cultural properties.