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Title: Vacation or Obli-cation: (Re)producing the Happy Family in a Home-Away-From-Home
Authors: Cheong Yinn Shan
Keywords: Family Tourism, Family Ideology, Everyday Geographies, Feminist Ethics of Care, Familial Relationships, Family Photography
Issue Date: 2018
Citation: Cheong Yinn Shan (2018). Vacation or Obli-cation: (Re)producing the Happy Family in a Home-Away-From-Home. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: Family vacations have become a ubiquitous cultural norm — imagined as the epitome of family togetherness and encapsulated through the production of “happy family” photographs. The pressure to conform to “naturalized” idealizations of the family is underpinned by pervasive family ideology that remain hegemonic, despite the changing structures of modern family life. But how exactly does the “happy family” materialize through holiday practices? What is it about the holiday time-space that differentiates it from home, transforming the ordinary family vacation into an extraordinary obligation that desires to be performed? These questions warrant an investigation into the exceptionalism of the family holiday, and this thesis answers them, by deconstructing the dilemma between the expectations and lived realities of modern family life. By innovatively amalgamating an “everyday geographies” conceptual approach with Gilligan’s (1982) “feminist ethics of care” perspective, the thesis re-examines seemingly banal practices of family holiday photography and carework. It draws its findings from qualitative data based on focus group discussions conducted with five Singaporean families and an autoethnography of the author’s family holidays. The thesis reveals that the shared emotions captured through candid photography of everyday imperfect moments are crucial in demarcating the boundaries around the “happy family”, and that carework practices on holiday are perceived as a means for families to authenticate nostalgic identities lost to modern life. These acts transform the holiday into a home-away-from-home, and are underpinned by a prioritization of familial relationship. Hence, this thesis conceptually formulates a reinterpretation of “feminist ethics of care” as the “family ethics of care”, a morality whose salience through holiday practices renews familial relationships of care with each recurring episode of the family holiday. This theorization elucidates that the family tourism time-space is exceptional, simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary, existing in-between home and away, through its (re)production of the “happy family” identity.
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