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Publication Detail
Structures of hosting in a south-western Chinese town
  • Publication Type:
  • Authors:
    McDonald TN
  • Date awarded:
  • Supervisors:
    Miller D,Empson RM
  • Status:
  • Awarding institution:
    UCL (University College London)
  • Language:
This thesis focuses on the materiality of hospitality situations in an industrial county-level town in south-west China, and its rural peripheries. Using ethnographic data, it demonstrates the movement of structures of habituated hospitality practices from ‘guest hall’ rooms in homes to a plethora of new commercial venues that have emerged in the town during the ‘reform and opening’ period. The first half of the thesis illustrates how, in the domestic sphere, these layouts serve to create a locale around which the family is both literally and metaphorically arranged, but also as a key site in which the family attempts to manage and control their interactions with non-family guests. In recent years, the expectations that hosting situations should be ever more exuberant in nature (typified by the creation of large amounts of ‘social heat’) has resulted in such gatherings being considered increasingly unsuitable for the home environment, which is progressively being reconceptualised as a location for ‘relaxation’. The second half of the thesis focuses upon the town’s commercial venues, examining both the material environment and social interactions taking place within, to demonstrate the similarities that exist between these spaces and the home’s guest hall. It will be shown that the widespread commodification and de-domestification of hosting situations has brought about a number of changes in the town, including concerns over a lack of co-presence of family members, and an enhanced facility for the creation of socially efficacious relationships that are free of the ties and purview of kin relations. The thesis concludes by proposing the term 'structured hosting' to inform both existing anthropological notions of the home and hospitality, and to extend Bourdieu’s notion of habitus by demonstrating how it can become inscribed upon new social domains.
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