Dialectical family imaginaries: Navigating relational selfhood and becoming a parent through assisted reproduction in China

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


This article examines underexplored aspects of family imaginaries by examining lesbians’ ways of thinking and feeling about having children. Drawing on in-depth interviews with lesbians in Beijing, China, I illustrate their agency and difficulties in pursuing parenthood through assisted reproductive technology or other unconventional means and redrawing the boundaries of the family. Building on the concept of family imaginaries and insights into relational selfhood, I identify three types of ‘dialectical family imaginaries’ in lesbians’ accounts of reproductive decision-making: imaginaries of bridging, bonding, and self-fashioning. These imaginaries are dialectical in the sense that they reproduce cultural ideals of what it means to be related and simultaneously generate new ways of pursuing parenthood while lesbians juggle filial affection and personal, pragmatic goals. This article highlights the sociological utility of ‘dialectical family imaginaries’ for exploring different forms and meanings of relatedness negotiated between the self, family and intergenerational relations, and wider society.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jun 2022


  • Assisted reproductive technology
  • family imaginary
  • intergenerational
  • lesbian parenthood
  • relational self
  • reproduction
  • sexuality

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