Filtered Life

Air Purification, Gender, and Cigarettes in the People's Republic of China

Air purification in Chinese contexts over the last half century has been generative for a way of being human, what the author calls “filtered life.” This is a materially, aesthetically, and even humorously mediated form of dwelling. In it, people confront ethics and anxieties under conditions of aerosolized ruination.

This article sheds special light on links between gender binaries and filtered life. It traces how, prior to the COVID‐19 pandemic, scientists, marketers, and many others residing in urban China interacted with air filters in ways textured by the male state. Notably chronicled here is a critique of ecological ruin emergent in homes of the People's Republic of China (PRC), one mutating from ire toward husbands for smoking cigarettes in the home to more recent indictments of men despoiling the environment.