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.
Based on lengthy ethnographic fieldwork in Southwest China, this article unpacks how precarity and migration have deeply shaped young migrant workers’ understanding and experiences of friendship. The precarious work and living conditions compel young migrants to put more emphasis on the instrumental aspects of friendship, in which they deeply value friends’ help and practical support, which also intertwine closely with the emotional aspects of friendship. High mobility does not mean that migrants are not able to form and maintain ‘meaningful’ social relationships; rather, it is friends’ support and help which sustain migrants’ precarious and highly mobile ways of living. This article also discusses the burdens and risks that are associated with such friendship practices, and how, despite these ‘dark sides of friendship’, young migrant workers still largely rely on their friends to survive and keep going in the city.