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Title: Life in the rural Shanxi house : seasonal resonances and techniques of transformation in north-central China
Author: Bruckermann, Charlotte Louise
ISNI:       0000 0004 2746 4833
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis gives an experiential account of notions of the home in contemporary rural China. Based on a year of fieldwork in a mountain village in rural Shanxi Province, the thesis explores everyday and ritual practices to investigate how people make themselves at home under conditions of political economic transformation. Villagers accommodate and resist conflicts of interest by negotiating boundaries of insiders and outsiders through the home. Differences of gender and generation come to the fore as people compromise between aspiration and pragmatism within the home under conditions of resurgent market competition. The theoretical concern of the thesis lies in connecting wider social processes to personal life projects through the intimate sphere of the home. The rhythm of the seasons patterns the thesis into spring, summer, autumn and winter chapters, as the seasons were pivotal in ordering people’s everyday practices and ritual activities within a shared social and ecological environment. The opening chapter on the autumn harvest coincided with my arrival in the village. The chapter explores how labour, and particularly women’s labour, transforms the earth into affective belonging, and how women negotiate conflicts over food consumption between the agricultural and market economy. The winter chapter parallels tales of personal life history with wider kinship networks across various generations, while simultaneously tracing bodily pathways from the domain of the hot stove in the home to the cold grave in the fields. The next chapter begins with the celebratory periods of springtime during the New Year Festival, a time of ritual renewal in the home when women partook in a local domestic ritual of propitiating the little spirits of the house. At Qingming Festival villagers’ practices of worshipping the ancestors in the fields were juxtaposed with a tour company’s staging of an elaborate ritual revival of star worship in the village. Conflicting aspirations over the future of the past thereby tore fissures into the emerging ritual terrain between outside spectacle and inside convergence. The last ethnographic chapter looks at the summer as a time for regenerating life, particularly through marriage and children. Reciprocal caring cycles between different generations of women are central to balancing domestic and occupational aspirations in negotiation with the local implementation of the family planning policy. House-based rituals at children’s birthday parties and bridal farewell ceremonies formally celebrate the roles of matrilateral relatives.
Supervisor: Hsu, Elisabeth Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Social anthropology ; Medical and ecological anthropology ; Visual and material anthropology ; Asia ; anthropology ; China ; Shanxi ; kinship ; labor ; ritual ; gender ; reproduction ; development ; tourism ; home ; house ; family ; life cycle ; generation ; fertility ; women ; ecology ; body ; season