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The moving boundaries of social heat: gambling in rural China

Steinmüller, Hans (2011) The moving boundaries of social heat: gambling in rural China. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 17 (2). pp. 263-280. ISSN 1359-0987

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Identification Number: 10.1111/j.1467-9655.2011.01679.x


Whilst gambling for money was prohibited during the Maoist era, since the 1980s it has become very common in many rural areas of central China. It is often the major communal activity in many villages, a focus point of daily gossip and an object of government campaigns. I describe several forms of gambling common in Bashan Township, Eastern Hubei Province, and relate them to local discourses on capability/skill and luck/fate. Gambling reproduces ‘social heat’, which is a desired form of social effervescence as long as it remains within certain boundaries. But the boundaries of accepted gambling and social heat in local sociality as well as those given in official representations and state discourse, are contested, and both stand in an ambiguous relationship to each other; a relationship that is described in terms of ‘cultural intimacy’. Using medium-range concepts such as ‘social heat’ and ‘cultural intimacy’ the article attempts to avoid the pitfalls of totalizing approaches which explain popular gambling as consequence of or resistance to ‘neoliberalism’.

Item Type: Article
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Additional Information: © 2011 Royal Anthropological Institute
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2010 08:24
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2021 02:08

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