Families, Relationships and Societies
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Displaying intimate friendships: Chinese children’s practices of friendships at school

Author: Yan Zhu1
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  • 1 University of Leeds, UK
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Through an intensive ethnographic fieldwork, this project explores rural Chinese children’s understandings and experiences of peer friendships at school. When talking about ‘friend’ and ‘friendship’, children tended to brag that they were friends with many peers, but at the same time to particularly highlight a very small number of peers as the most intimate friends, in other words, their ‘best friends’. Inspired by Finch’s concept of ‘display’, this article explores how these Chinese children used different approaches to highlight their intimate friends’ particularity in intimate friendship displays at school. This article, first, unpacks three commonly used approaches in these children’s displays of intimate friendships: 1) building up an exclusionary ‘intimate friends only’ policy; 2) imparting to certain objects, actions and language sentimental and specific meanings as ‘tokens’ of their friendship; and 3) giving ‘priority’ to intimate friends. Second, it discusses the importance of audiences and cooperation between actors in intimate friendship displays.

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  • 1 University of Leeds, UK

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