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Cumulus : Hoarding, Hosting, Hospitality

The Shandong TV Talk Show Host and the Filial Guest

When Hosting Is not Hospitable
Le débat télévisé du Shandong et son invité filial : un accueil en trompe-l’œil
Angela Zito
p. 89-110


As the Chinese Party-state ramps up the revivification of chuantong wenhua, or traditional culture, really « Confucianism » as an ethical formation, I consider several structuring forms across temporalities (Model Person, filiality, and above all hosting) through a TV talk show called All Fathers and Mothers Under Heaven. In classic ancestral ritual, it is always the Son who « hosts », standing as the zhuren in the center, even as the ideology of imperial patriarchy holds the Father as dominant. The TV talk show reverses this structure : the filial son is the guest, while the state’s surrogate hosts the show. Yet the Party-state’s entire current project hopes to empower its « Sons » (and daughters, its « children ») as individually strong, entrepreneurial citizens of the xxist century new China. Hence the dilemma of the government : empowering its citizenry just enough, while not giving away too much of its own clout. How different is Chinese hosting’s machinery for inferring inclusion and obligation different from Mediterranean stranger-hospitality ? And the final question of this essay : is the media empire of which this show is an example not the closest heir to the functioning of the imperium’s old ritual cult of making the realm visible ?

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Rituals of Filiality, as Reservoir and Revival
The TV Talk Show : Narrating and Ritualizing
Act One, Wang the Filial Son
Act Two, Wang the Party Secretary
Narrating : Style in Filiality
Ritualizing : Hosting May Not Be Hospitable, But It Is Powerful

First lines

In this century, the Chinese Party-state has been ramping up the revivification of chuantong wenhua, or traditional culture, a term that really codes « Confucianism » as an ethical formation. This vast project – with grassroots support and engagement – seeks (depending upon one’s politics) to erase, resituate, or recover from the 30 years of Maoist Socialism following the Revolution’s success in 1949 (Billioud & Thorval 2015). The aspect of this revival that I work on concerns filiality (xiao, xiaodao, xiaoshun).

Re-inventing the past is usually linked to nationalist projects (Denton 2014). Yet, along with such undoubted utility, these forays are taken as matters of great moral seriousness by the actors involved, thought to provide a basis of meaning and plausibility for the possibility of political action at all by connecting it to practices of perfect personhood. One must ask then : How seriously do we take historically older forms when we want to understand contemporary China ? I ...

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Bibliographical reference

Angela Zito, « The Shandong TV Talk Show Host and the Filial Guest », L’Homme, 231-232 | 2019, 89-110.

Electronic reference

Angela Zito, « The Shandong TV Talk Show Host and the Filial Guest », L’Homme [Online], 231-232 | 2019, Online since 03 January 2022, connection on 23 January 2020. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/lhomme.35543

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About the author

Angela Zito

New York University – Department of Anthropology – Religious Studies, New York (USA) –

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© École des hautes études en sciences sociales

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