In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

202 China Review International: Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1995 Ellen Oxfeld. Blood, Sweat, and Mahjong: Family and Enterprise in an Overseas Chinese Community. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1993. xiii, 291 pp. 12 plates. Hardcover $42.50. Paperback $16.95. In this rich, detailed, and multifaceted study, Ellen Oxfeld combines anthropological , sociological, and historical methods to describe a fascinating community of Hakka entrepreneurs in Calcutta, their origins and links to Mei Xian, and dieir patterns ofemigration to Toronto. Oxfeld challenges static and overly simplified notions of Chinese culture by highlighting the varied interconnections between family dynamics, entrepreneurial ethics, ethnicity, and emigration, and by situating her study within the larger context ofhistory and transnational migration. On the most general level, this book is an important contribution to the previously sparse literature on Chinese in India. At its peak, before the Sino-Indian border conflict of 1962, the Chinese population of India reached over 14,000. In Calcutta today diere are close to 8,000 Chinese including Hakka, Cantonese, and Hubeinese, each group forming a largely separate Chinese community. Following common patterns of Chinese ethnic occupational specialization, Cantonese often work as carpenters, Hubeinese become dentists, and Hakka—by far the largest and most prosperous Chinese group in Calcutta—dominate in leather manufacturing and also own and operate shoe shops, restaurants, and hairdressing salons. Oxfeld situates the Calcutta Hakka in relation to Indian society: she describes the earliest setdement of Chinese in India and die emergence ofthe Hakka tanning industry during die World War I era; she compares the division oflabor and die spatial layout of Indian and Chinese-run tanneries; she considers the importance of Hindu notions of purity and pollution to tanning (which is considered "supremely impure" because ofits association with dead cattle); and she examines die social relations between Indians and Chinese and their stereotypes ofone another. The experiences and strategies ofHakka tanners are marked by the tìieir position as "pariah capitalists" who are relatively prosperous but politically powerless, and particularly insecure ever since the Sino-Indian conflict. According to Oxfeld, dieir political insecurity in India explains, in large part, why many Hakka choose to leave their lucrative enterprises and managerial roles in Calcutta in order to settle in Canada, where they often live in public housing estates, accept low-paying factory jobs, and seem to continue to socialize and intermarry primarily within the Calcutta Hakka community. Emigration to Canada is linked to political concerns, but also to© 1995 by University ^¿ej- Chinese familial strategies and to patterns ofhouseholddynamics. j awai ? ressBesides providing an interesting ethnographic case study, Oxfeld draws on a vast array ofliterature and contributes to numerous debates and issues of concern to China scholars. Here I shall briefly highlight just a few ofthose diat I found Reviews 203 most interesting or provocative. In chapter 4, "Profit, Loss and Fate: Gambling and the Entrepreneurial Ethic," Oxfeld describes wealth among die Calcutta Hakka—as among many overseas Chinese communities—as the ultimate measure of success. As one informant told her, "We don't have castes. Your blood doesn't matter. We have classes. What matters is how much money you make" (p. 95). Oxfeld describes how gambling embodies "die contradictions of an entrepreneurial ethic" (p. 120). The entrepreneurial ethic, furthermore, is "neither a straightforward nor internally unambiguous set ofbeliefs and practices, but is riddled with simultaneously held and seemingly contradictory ideas about fate and individual power, calculation and risk" (p. 212). Gambling—within the appropriate socially prescribed bounds—is a way to display wealth; it acknowledges the importance of careful risk-taking, of fate, and ofprudence and wise investment for entrepreneurial success. The desire for success, moreover, is not generally viewed as an end in itself, but as a way to fulfill familial obligations. Chapter 7, '"Branches of a Tree': Family and Firm in the Second and Third Generations," and chapter 8, "Individualism, Holism, and die Profit Motive," both contribute to the literature on Chinese family relationships by providing lively examples of conflicts between brothers, the importance of the "uterine family ," and, in what appears to be more uniquely developed in die Calcutta Chinese community, the importance ofhaving at least one daughter. These chapters also complement...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 202-204
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.