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TRACING CHINA - A Forty-Year Ethnographic Journey
Author Helen F. Siu
Publisher Hong Kong University Press
ISBN 9789888083732
Classification Social Science > Anthropology
Price HK$550.00
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Tracing China’s journey began from exploring rural revolution and reconstitutions of community in South China. Spanning decades of rural-urban divide, it finally uncovers China’s global reach and Hong Kong’s cross-border dynamics. Helen Siu traverses physical and cultural landscapes to examine political tumults transforming into everyday lives, and fathom the depths of human drama amid China’s frenetic momentum toward modernity. Highlighting complicity, Siu portrays how villagers, urbanites, cadres, entrepreneurs, and intellectuals—laden with historical baggage—venture forward. But have they victimized themselves in the process?

This essay collection, informed by critical social theories and shaped by careful scrutiny of fieldwork and archival texts, is woven by key historical/anthropological themes—culture, history, power, place-making, and identity formation. Siu stresses process and contingency and argues that culture and society are constructed through human actions with nuanced meanings, moral imagination, and contested interests. Challenging the notion that social/political changes are mere linear historical progressions, she traces layers of the past in present realities.

About the Author:

Helen F. Siu is professor of anthropology at Yale University and founding director of the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong.

“Helen Siu is one of the world’s leading specialists on Chinese rural and urban society. Her essays, collected here, cover a wide range of topics of interest to anthropologists, sociologists, geographers, economists, and political scientists. Siu focuses on the ‘underside’ of social life in South China, a quality so often missing in the work of others. She writes with great skill and empathy.”
—James L. Watson, Fairbank Professor of Chinese Society and Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, Harvard University

“No one has woven the threads of ethnography, social structure, and cultural performance so brilliantly together as Helen Siu has in Tracing China. This rich tapestry of her finest scholarship illuminates how culture, power, and history can be deployed to yield wholly original and convincing understandings of southern China.”
—James C. Scott, Sterling Professor of Political Science and Anthropology, Yale University

Introduction: China as Process

Part 1: Tracing Meaningful Life-Worlds
1. Reflections on Historical Anthropology
2. Cultural Identity and the Politics of Difference in South China

Part 2: Moving Targets
3. Images: Prologue to Agents and Victims in South China
4. China’s Century: Fast Forward with Historical Baggage

Part 3: Structuring and Human Agency
5. Socialist Peddlers and Princes in a Chinese Market Town
6. Recycling Rituals: Politics and Popular Culture in Contemporary Rural China
7. Reconstituting Dowry and Brideprice in South China

Part 4: Culturing Power
8. Recycling Tradition: Culture, History, and Political Economy in the Chrysanthemum Festivals of South China
9. Lineage, Market, Pirate, and Dan: Ethnicity in the Pearl River Delta of South China
10. The Grounding of Cosmopolitans: Merchants and Local Cultures in South China

Part 5: History between the Lines
11. Where Were the Women? Rethinking Marriage Resistance and Regional Culture in South China
12. Social Responsibility and Self-Expression: Introduction to Furrows: Peasants, Intellectuals, and the State

Part 6: Place-Making: Locality and Translocality
13. Subverting Lineage Power: Local Bosses and Territorial Control in the 1940s
14. The Cultural Landscape of Luxury Housing in South China: A Regional History
15. Positioning “Hong Kongers” and “New Immigrants”
16. Grounding Displacement: Uncivil Urban Spaces in Post-Reform South China

Part 7: Historical Global and the Asian Postmodern
17. Hong Kong: Cultural Kaleidoscope on a World Landscape
18. Women of Influence: Gendered Charisma
19. Retuning a Provincialized Middle Class in Asia’s Urban Postmodern: The Case of Hong Kong


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