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Economies of Favour after Socialism$
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David Henig and Nicolette Makovicky

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780199687411

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199687411.001.0001

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The Anti-Favour

The Anti-Favour

Ideasthesia, Aesthetics, and Obligation in Southwest China

Chapter:
(p.96) 5 The Anti-Favour
Source:
Economies of Favour after Socialism
Author(s):

Katherine Swancutt

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199687411.003.0005

Drawing on ethnography from Southwest China, this chapter introduces the ‘anti-favour’ as a heuristic tool for showing how obligations are fulfilled at all costs. Favours are often equated with gratuitous acts or favoured exchanges amongst close contacts. In the anthropology of China, they are typically theorized as guanxi, central to the sociality of the Han Chinese majority. In contrast, a dramatic approach to the anti-favour is customary among the highland Nuosu, who harness the existentialist process of ‘ideasthesia’ to complete esteem-building ordeals. In moments of ideasthesia, Nuosu evoke their warrior’s aesthetics and exemplars of bravery, which trigger a physically felt foreshadowing of the obligations they must fulfil (including, at their most extreme, atonement suicides). What the dual focus on ideasthesia and the anti-favour offers, then, is a new insight into how different modes of esteem-building are constitutive of the decision to commit to the full weight of obligation.

Keywords:   favours, anti-favour, ideasthesia, aesthetics, obligation, warrior’s aesthetics, guanxi, Nuosu, Southwest China

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