Tuesday, January 3, 2017

[HKAS seminar] Familiar Strangers: Social Media and the Outsider in Chinese Kinship

Title: Familiar Strangers: Social Media and the Outsider in Chinese Kinship
Speaker: Tom McDonald (Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, The University of Hong Kong)
Date and time: 18 January 2017, 7:00 p.m.
Venue: Lecture Hall, Ground Floor, Hong Kong Museum of History, 100 Chatham Road, Tsim Sha Tsui


Anthropological accounts of social relations within Chinese society have traditionally viewed both kinship and familiarity as the basis of relationships between persons, which has inevitably led to the exclusion of strangers from the majority of attempts to theorize such relations. This lecture draws on ethnographic evidence collected during 15 months of fieldwork studying the impact of social media use in a rural Chinese town, which revealed the nature of these novel relationships with strangers which are facilitated by social media, showing how these encounters need to be understood in relation to the specific rural context in which participants reside.

Through these ethnographic cases and observations, this lecture will argue that participants do not position strangers that they meet on social media outside of their network of social relations. Instead, the mediatized relationships offered by social media come to represent a ready source of potential friends with whom they are both eager and willing to interact. On occasion, it is actually these strangers who individuals feel they can most easily confide in, and share intimate feelings – or experiences – with.

This lecture will thus conclude by arguing that improved models for understanding Chinese social relationships are needed, which are capable of understanding the stranger as integral, rather than antithetical to sociality.

Following the talk, you are invited to a self-paying dinner with the speaker. For more information, please contact Stan Dyer on 9746 9537 or anthrohk@gmail.com, www.cuhk.edu.hk/ant/hkas, www.facebook.com/hkanthro.

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