Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
This paper draws upon work in ethnography and oral history in rural communities in north and southwest China since 1986 to explore contrasting modes of articulating lived experience through and following ruptures of public and intimate life. These will be approached through analyzing instances of refashioning life and livelihood as people who had experienced the transformations of Liberation and the Cultural Revolution approached the new thresholds of the reform era—bringing deep transformations in landholding and markets and in household, family and mobility.
Pathways of life and livelihood in rural China since 1949 have been punctuated by a series of threshold events designed to liberate people from multiple forms of violence and oppression, each step contesting, challenging and differently transcending the limitations of the step before. The basic resources of subsistence have been the subject of as many as nine successive regimes of land holding; while the fundamental units of life, family and community have been recurrently remade in marriage and family law and in campaigns affecting the most intimate aspects of life. While each of these thresholds has been initiated from outside rural communities, each has been profoundly reliant on community, familial and personal consent, resources and agency to refashion the fabric of rural life. This has not only generated new repertoires and pressure for subsequent change, but has created diverse modes of articulation through which punctuated rupture is negotiated in everyday life. This argument will be developed through two contrasting instances, engaging both livelihood and familial life.