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Man and Nature in China

Title: Man and Nature in China: Gender, Natural Resources Management and the Chinese State in an Inner Mongolia Village

Author: Hu Yukun

ISBN: 978-1-84464-600-5

Ebook ISBN: 978-1-84464-601-2

Hardback-372 Pages

October 2020


£75 €90 $120


The process of China’s rural modernization over the past half-century was punctuated by an ambitious attempt to transform the natural environment. “Wars against nature “were long a nationwide characteristic in rural China during the collective period. After decollectivization, rather than being reversed, overexploitation of nature intensified due to rapid economic development and increased inequality. Meanwhile, the rhetoric of “man can conquer nature” was replaced by “rehabilitate beautiful landscapes,” seeming to embody a shifting conceptualization of people’s relationship to nature.

In the background of the twin campaigns of “war against nature” and “rebuilding beautiful landscapes,” this dissertation provides a first-hand understanding of natural resource management and environment changes from a gender perspective in the context of larger economic and ecological transformations in a peasant community in Inner Mongolia over the past five decades. It examines how village men and women managed, viewed and negotiated environmental resources in their everyday lives along lines of wealth, ethnicity, age, marriage status, and livelihood. The ethnographic methodology of this study triangulates complementary qualitative and quantitative techniques of participant observation, informal conversations, in-depth interviews, oral histories and life stories, with household census and survey, archival materials, and local government statistics and documents.



Chapter One Engendering Rural Development and Environmental Changes

Rural Modernization, Ecological Legacy and Gender

Contested Terrain: Gender, Natural Resources Management and Institutional Matrixes

Major Structure

Chapter Two The Politics of Fieldwork

The Site Selection

The Initial Visits

An Ethnographic Gaze: Power in Operation, Power in Transition

Chapter Three The Setting: Land and Its People

A Peasant Community in North eastern China

A Village in Flux: The Intersections of Class, Gender And Ethnicity

Landscape Dynamics and Environmental Challenges

Chapter Four Agrarian Changes and the Crusade against Local Environment

Agricultural Collectivization and Its environmental Impact

Plunging Into Smallholder Patterns: Agricultural Intensification, Technological Changes and the Gendered Labor Regimes

The Livestock Economy in an Ecological Context

Chapter Five Voices from the Grassroots: Gender, Bureaucratic State Power and the Mass Mobilization Conservation Campaign

Environmental Action as a Mass Mobilization Conservation Campaign: a Local Tale

The History of Mass Conservation Practices in a Peasant Village

From Success to Tragedy: The Legacy of a Party Secretary

In the Shadow of a New Round of “Development”

Chapter Six The State, Community-based Natural Resource Management and Resistance Politics

The State at the Grassroots Level

Community-based Natural Resource Management and Its Dilemmas

The Powerless Fight Back: Resistance Politics in the Village

Everyday Forms of Resistance

Chapter Seven Intra-household Dynamics and Interhousehold Interactions

A Shift of Gender and Power in Intra-household Dynamics

Inter-household Relationships in Practice

Chapter Eight Market, Off-farm Work and Socio-economic Differentiation: Money Changes Everything

The Evolution of the Market as an Institutional Mechanism

The Rush to Off- farm Pursuits

Emerging Wealth and Poverty through Villagers’ Eyes

Chapter Nine Gender, Conservation, Development: Sustainability Dilemmas

Literature Cited

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