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Hitchhiking Travel in China: Power, Gender and Sexuality

Gao, Xiongbin (2019) Hitchhiking Travel in China: Power, Gender and Sexuality Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey.

Xiongbin Gao PhD Thesis (corrected version for final submission).pdf - Version of Record
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Hitchhiking travel has received little interest from tourism researchers despite its association with backpacker travel and its (re)emergence as a tourism practice in recent years, especially in China. Literature suggests that gender is an important aspect of hitchhiking. The female hitchhikers, like other women travellers and tourists, are both constrained by and resistant to gender norms. However, this has seldom been examined in a critical approach. Building on Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity and her conception of vulnerability, this research seeks to provide a critical account of how hitchhiking travel in contemporary China is articulated and experienced in gendered and sexualised ways. Butler offers a critical account of ‘agency’ and a queer intervention in gender studies, which are valuable in addressing the agency-as-free-actions formulation and the heterosexual presumption seen in the understanding of gender in hitchhiking or tourism in general. Empirical data were collected through participant observation and interviews during an (auto)ethnographic field study undertaken on the South Sichuan – Tibet Route in China and analysed through writing as a method of inquiry – a ‘queer’ analytic method that allows the ‘crossing’ of thematic analysis, Foucauldian discourse analysis and self-narratives. The findings suggest that the ‘truth’ of hitchhiking and being a hitchhiker is produced through storytelling as a form of discursive power. Such discursive power set up the subjectivities in which the female and the male hitchhikers understand themselves as vulnerable and invulnerable respectively. The (in)vulnerability, far from being the essential features of the gendered hitchhiking subjects, is differentially distributed to the female and male hitchhikers as the consequence of certain power regimes, particularly normative heterosexuality and the principle of reciprocity. These power regimes also operate to marginalise non-heteronormative, or specifically homosexual subjects in hitchhiking travel. This research as a whole demonstrates an alternative approach to understating gender in tourism that may invoke valuable debates in tourism gender scholarship.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors : Gao, Xiongbin
Date : November 2019
DOI : 10.15126/thesis.00852994
Contributors :
ContributionNameEmailORCID, Scott, Paul
Depositing User : Xiongbin Gao
Date Deposited : 20 Dec 2019 09:17
Last Modified : 20 Dec 2019 09:18

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