Accepted paper:

Hospitality and filiality in the interstices of Chinese capitalism


Ellen Judd (University of Manitoba)

Paper short abstract:

The Chinese economic miracle, widely interpreted as a market triumph, may be persuasively and ethnographically viewed as arising from wellsprings of caring rooted in but not contained by filial values and familial practices through which the lives of others are nurtured and markets challenged.

Paper long abstract:

China's turn toward the market since 1979 has been credited with remarkable economic growth and leading hundreds of millions of people from poverty to varying degrees of wealth or modest wellbeing, despite continuing severe disparities. Close ethnographic examination of the structures of the social production of this growth reveal its dependence on pervasive values and practices of intergenerational caring for others through which migrants are provided for market production and in turn provide filial care for familial others . These modes of hospitality have roots in a familial mode of livelihood underlined by Philip C.C. Huang as central to Chinese society and culture and currently distinctive in the nurturing of rural and translocal families and thereby of radiating networks. The interstitial practices enacting the hospitality through which gifts to sustain the lives of others are central in both livelihood and moral being are traced through two sequences of ethnographic investigation. The first explores the sustaining of life in three upland west China rural communities drained of migrants for distant labour markets, 2003-2005. The second explores modes of translocal caring in pursuit of livelihood and health care for members of translocal families bridging west China rural and both near and distant metropolitan centres, 2009-2011. The links between specific cultural formulations in terms of filiality and a gender of care perspective are traced and the contribution of these values and practices to the wellbeing and prosperity of others are identified, with particular attention to the challenges posed to claims of market provision.

panel P21
Invisible hands: alternate modes of prosperity, wealth and well-being