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Service Encounters: Class, Gender, and the Market for Social Distinction in Urban China

A talk by Amy Hanser (University of British Columbia)

Monday, January 12, 2009
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

This lecture will explore new conceptions of gender and sexuality in China, asking how and why they have become so integral to the organization of service work regimes there. Drawing upon ethnographic data collected in three urban Chinese retail settings, the talk will argue that essentialized conceptions of gender and sexuality powerfully communicate class distinctions in service settings through associations with the imagery of China's shift from socialism to a marketized society. A shift from the socialist "iron rice bowl" to the "rice bowl of youth" infuses youthful, feminine urban bodies with value while simultaneously devaluing middle-aged and rural women. At the same time, these new service work regimes incorporate interactional patterns of deference and class-recognition between clerk and customer. An essentializing discourse of gender legitimates new inequalities in urban China by masking the class distinctions simultaneously produced.

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Amy Hanser is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of British Columbia. She has published articles and a book, Service Encounters (Stanford 2008), on service work, consumption, and inequality in urban China. Her current research projects include study of consumer rights' discourse in China, of North American media portrayals of China-made products, and of street markets and street vendors in urban China.

310 825-8683

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies

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