CCHU9088 Arts and Humanities
We are Family: Myths, Realities and the Future of an Idea

This course is under the thematic cluster(s) of:

  • Gender, Sexuality, and Diversity (GSD)

Timetable for Lectures


[This is a certified Communication-intensive (CI) Course which meets all of the requirements endorsed by HKU’s Senate, including (i) the teaching assessment of written and visual communication ‘literacies’; and (ii) at least 40% of the course grade is assigned to communication-rich assessment tasks.]

Course Description

Today, we are told that ‘family values’ are seriously under threat. There are fewer marriages, easier divorces and more children born to single parents. Wars give rise to displaced families, whose households are constantly on the move. We are told that the nuclear family ideal has become out of date. Multigenerational families, single parent families, queer families and childless families have become increasingly popular globally. We are Family explores the possibility that the more diverse the families we live with, the more obsessed we are with the myths of family, the stories that are so regularly depicted across our media. Rather than a static institution, the family must be understood as an imagined construction with a long history and politics.

This course, which moves across multiple disciplines, considers a series of intriguing questions such as: What makes an ideal family? Should a single-person household be considered a family? How do queer families work? And how do technologies of reproduction impact the idea of family?

Each interactive class session revolves around such philosophical questions and engages with historical and contemporary case studies of family across global settings. Methodologically, the course adopts an intersectional approach by exploring how categories of gender, race, class, disability and sexuality simultaneously empower and oppress individuals in the realm of family.

What is your concept of family? What social forces helped shaped that idea? How might you shape your own future toward your most desired version of family? Let’s explore with each other the history, meaning and future of the family!

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Analyse the historical role of various stakeholders in shaping family dynamics.
  2. Examine the family as a historical concept and how it serves political, social and cultural roles in a global setting.
  3. Explore how individuals formed families of their choice by conforming and resisting to the state’s intervention at different historical points.
  4. Apply an intersectional approach to examine the political, social and cultural issues that underlie current family debates and present them in written and digital formats.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)

Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 8
Reading / Self-study 38
Assessment: Video production 40
Assessment: Reflective writing 10
Total: 120

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Tutorial presentations and debate 40
In-class assessments 20
Video essay 40

Required Reading

Selections from:

  • Baas, M. (2020). The Asian migrant’s body: Emotion, gender and sexuality. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
  • Bernstein, M., & Reimann, R. (2001). Queer families, queer politics: challenging culture and the state. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Briggs, L. (2012). Somebody’s children: The politics of transracial and transnational adoption. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Collins, P. H. (1998). It’s All In the Family: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Nation. Hypatia, 13(3), 62–82. From
  • Coontz, S. (2006). Marriage, a history: From obedience to intimacy or how love conquered marriage. New York, N. Y.: Penguin.
  • Dorow, S. K. (2006). Transnational adoption: A cultural economy of race, gender, and kinship. New York, N. Y.; London: New York University Press.
  • Fuess, H. (2004). Divorce in Japan: Family, gender, and the state, 1600-2000. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
  • Gillis, J. R. (1997). A world of their own making: Myth, ritual, and the quest for family values. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Inhorn, M. C., & Van Balen, F. (2002). Infertility around the globe: New thinking on childlessness, gender, and reproductive technologies. Berkeley: University Of California Press.
  • Kim, E. (2011). Adopted territory: Transnational Korean adoptees and the politics of belonging. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press; Chesham.
  • Lloyd, S. A., Few, A. L., & Allen, K. R. (2009). Handbook of feminist family studies. Los Angeles, Calif.: Sage.
  • May, E. T. (2017). Homeward bound: American families in the Cold War era. New York: Basic Books.
  • Muir, A. J. (2021). Deviant Maternity: Illegitimacy in Wales, c. 1680 -1800. S. L.: Routledge.
  • Quah, S. R. (2015). Routledge Handbook of Families in Asia. Abingdon, Oxon; New York: Routledge.
  • Ramos-Zayas, A. Y. (2020). Parenting empire: Class, Whiteness, and the moral economy of privilege in Latin America. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Wahlberg, A. (2018). Good quality: The routinization of sperm banking in China. Oakland: University of California Press.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr C.L. Tsang
School of Humanities (History), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2864
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr C.L. Tsang
School of Humanities (History), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2864