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Klein, Jakob Akiba (2004) Reinventing the traditional Guangzhou teahouse: Caterers, customers and cooks in post-socialist urban South China. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis, based on ten months of field research and archival studies in Guangzhou (Canton), centres on an ethnographic portrait of a 120-year old teahouse, a state enterprise which combines the functions of teahouse and restaurant in a single establishment with the help of 180 staff. I approach the teahouse as a complex, shifting social space embedded in wider discourses and historical processes, and use the ethnographic portrait as a basis for exploration into several themes in the anthropology of urban China. The first chapter provides an historical background and deals with the rise, fall and revival of teahouse culture in the changing uses of urban space in the twentieth century. Chapter two discusses sociability among teahouse regulars, and explores the teahouse as a site for the forging of social ties and the negotiation of class, neighbourhood and gender identities. In chapter three I examine the role of the state sector of the catering industry in recent discourses of nostalgia and tradition. The fourth chapter reveals the shifting nature of Cantonese cuisine within the contexts of globalisation and discourses of modernity. Chapter five considers the significance of gender, native place and age for structuring opportunities in the teahouse workforce. Chapter six looks at cooks' reactions to the ongoing reforms of the state enterprise, and situates these within the contexts of kitchen work and cooks' occupational identities. The underlying argument in the thesis is that social identifications and cultural discourses in contemporary urban China must be understood not only as grounded in the present, but also within complex histories of continuities, ruptures and reinventions. In particular, I argue that there is scope for rethinking Maoism as being not only destructive but also productive of cultural traditions.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:03

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