Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Discerning the Cultural: An Ethnography of China’s Rural-Urban Divide
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This dissertation seeks a better understanding of the lived quality of the spatial and class division known as China's rural/urban divide through an ethnographic inspection of daily practice, attitudes (at domestic, community, and county government levels), policy history, and local memory in Henan, China. It shows how at every point a person's (or place's, or practice's) ruralness or urban sophistication is an intimate, local quality. By focusing on everyday social practices which may give insight into forms of embodiment and local cultural worlds, my ethnography brings together questions concerning space, embodiment, everyday life, and peasant status. My dissertation has made it clear that there are indigenous cultural processes through which the meaning of rural and urban location is made. The political economic roots and social determinants of dirty villages, the strategies of inhabiting villages with empty centers, and the local and national projects of cultural production all reveal much about class and power in China today. Unlike other close ethnographies of small places in China, this reading of local culture is considered in the context of the national and global practices that maintain a deeply divisive rural-urban divide. I argue that substantive ethnographic attention to the specificities of village life in the contemporary Henan context can destabilize China's chronic rural-urban divide and recover a unique and sophisticated voice for at least one group of silenced peasants.