Katja's canteen

Complex intersections of the public and the private in the South Bohemian countryside

in Focaal
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  • 1 University of Bergen haldis.haukanes@iuh.uib.no
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This article discusses notions of "public" and "private" in the postsocialist Czech Republic through a comparative examination of food practices in families and in the canteen of an agricultural cooperative in South Bohemia. Different meanings of public and private will be outlined, making up a complex set of referential contexts for the interaction between canteen personnel and customers. Analysis of daily life in the canteen revealed that the personnel tended to personalize customer relations. It is argued that this inclination cannot be explained first and foremost as the influence of market-oriented postsocialist public debates on public-private relations. The canteen is a key provider of services to the community but is not run according to market principles or driven by the logic of profit. Its friendly atmosphere is predicated on the moral practice and personal skills of its employees and is embedded in local cultures of food sharing. By exploring daily practice and interaction in the canteen, the article critically examines implications for the feminist concept of emotional labor that have emerged in studies on capitalist, profit-driven enterprises.

Focaal

Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology

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