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Liu, Xin (1995) Zhao villagers: Everyday practices in a post-reform Chinese village. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis has two aims. Firstly, it aims to provide a detailed ethnographic account of a post-reform village in north-western China by approach of examining how the fields of social relations are formed by and through discursive representations of the village and how the formation of social relations and representations of the village are constituted in everyday practices. Secondly, this thesis also aims to reach wider theoretical issues, particularly issues concerning the debates about writing and fieldwork in contemporary anthropology, and aims to use a specific case study to raise, critically, questions about ethnographic writing on China. Writing in the wake of Foucauldian and renewed Marxist currents of radical critique from which comes the general claim of relating power to knowledge or to ideology, I take a 'practice approach' in this thesis to examine rural life in post-reform China as historically situated social practice. Focusing on the details of everyday life, I argue that, firstly, social action and its agents are mutually constitutive and, secondly, social, economic and political organisations as complex forms of practices are constituted in everyday practices. In the Introduction, I trace the regional tradition of ethnographic writing on China and illustrate my theoretical stance and the specific position from which I write. Chapter 1 provides a background of the village by way of presenting different narratives and representations about the village. Chapter 2 looks at kinship as a social practice and examines its changing strategies. Chapter 3 focuses on the tactics of marriage negotiation and shows that social relations are modifiable, alterable, changing processes. Chapter 4 looks at food and the way in which it is served on different occasions as a signifier of various kinds of social relationships. Chapter 5, as a core chapter of the thesis, examines the strategies and tactics of everyday practices through a series of detailed ethnographic examples. Chapter 6 looks at the village celebrations - weddings and funerals - as extensive forms of practices, which reveal more clearly 'the logic of practice' in post-reform rural China. Chapter 7, the last substantial chapter, focuses on the effects of the economic reforms on the village's economic and political practices, and shows the changing strategies in reordering and re-constituting the power relations in post-reform rural China. In my Conclusion, I point out the significance of my research as a critical understanding of both the actual socio-economic conditions of post-reform rural China and the regional tradition of ethnographic writing on China.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:03

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