Idyll or nightmare: What does rurality mean for farmers in a Chinese village undergoing commercialization?
Bing PENG, Zhijun LIU, Bingxuan ZHANG, and Xutang CHEN
ABSTRACT Amid arguments over the recurrence or deconstruction of rural life — prompted by cultural reconstruction of rurality — the increasing complexity of rural life can be variously traced to economic, social, and political transformations common to all corners of the world. With primary reference to archives and in-depth interviews, this study aims to describe the experience with, negotiation of, and reproduction of rurality among farmers of a thousand-year-old village on the east coast of mainland China. In doing so, it reveals rurality as a Western concept used to clarify the fate of rural communities in a transitional economy. Indeed, market-oriented reform seems to have changed farmers’ conceptualization of rurality, with their references to “the good old days” serving as a complaint about their economically and politically inferior status. Certainly, rural tourism development is an idyllic prospect for urbanite, but it is becoming a nightmare for indigenous farmers as the cultural colonization embodied in the commercialization of rurality threatens to join industrialization and urbanization in encroaching on rural communities in a transitional economy.
KEYWORDS: Rurality; cultural reconstruction; commercialization; rural tourism; transitional economy
Notes on contributors
Bing PENG is a professor at the Department of Ethnology, Lishui University. He is also a professor at the Center for Local Governance Studies, Zhejiang University. He received his PhD degree from College of Public Administration, Zhejiang University. He was a visiting scholar at the Department of Political Science, the University of Chicago. His research interest includes rural development, and community development.
Zhijun LIU is an Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology, Zhejiang University. He is also a research fellow of the Social Survey and Research Center at Zhejiang University. He holds a PhD in Anthropology from Sun Yat-Sen University and once studied economics at the Johns Hopkins-Nanjing Center. He was a visiting scholar of Kiel University, Germany in 2006 and Harvard-Yenching Institute from 2007 to 2008. His research interest includes urbanization, migration, rural development and left-behind children.
Bingxuan ZHANG is an associate professor at the Department of Urban Governance and Public Economics, Zhejiang Gongshang University. He received his PhD degree from College of Public Administration, Zhejiang University. His research interest includes local governmental reform and social governance. He has completed a book on bureaucracy and governmental action.
Xutang CHEN is an associate professor at the Department of Business, Lishui University. His research interest includes rural economy and rural development.