Guest Editor’s Introduction: The Local Intimacies of China’s Rural-Urban Divide


This collection of mostly ethnographic studies of rural China, with some contributions from the rather different discourse world of Chinese anthropology, seeks to bring into visibility the heterogeneity of life in the countryside. They argue that rural China must first and foremost be understood as socially and culturally heterogeneous. On the other hand, there is much resonance in the details among all these articles, reminding us that ethnography in contemporary China can accumulate to give us an anthropology or sociology of the state as it is seen from the point of view of its relatively denigrated or subaltern peripheries, that is, rural China. Many dilemmas and challenges facing the people described in these articles are held in common, and together they allow us to see a broad vision of contemporary China beyond the cities and the dominant mass media. Being rather ethnographic/descriptive, the articles gathered here show that good and attentive description, under some conditions, can also be critique.