Victor NEE : Towards a Social Anthropology of the Chinese Revolution

Publication Information : Article Title : Towards a Social Anthropology of the Chinese Revolution. Contributors : Victor Nee – author. Journal Title : Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars. Volume : 11. Issue : 3. Publication Year : 1979.

Nowhere has the myth of the political inertness of the peasantry been so thoroughly challenged as in the Chinese revolution. Peasants, in the making of the Chinese revolution, stood at the center of the revolutionary drama. It was the peasantry that constituted the overwhelming social force of the revolution, and who had the greatest stake in its outcome. This article examines the ethnographic data provided by the Crooks’ landmark study of revolution in a Chinese village in order to codify their findings more systematically in terms of a social anthropology of the Chinese revolution.

Isabel and David Crook’s study of Ten Mile Inn was written in two parts. The first volume, Revolution in a Chinese Village (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1959 ), is a social history of Ten Mile Inn, covering the first decade of revolutionary upheaval in the village from 1937 to 1947. The second volume, recently published by Pantheon, is a field journal which gives a day by day meeting by meeting account of the final stage of land reform in the village. The Crooks’ field journal is in many ways a more revealing account of land revolution in the village, focusing on the relationship between Communists and villagers, and of the dynamic of peasant participation in the village. Taken together both accounts provide a wealth of ethnographic data which gives us rare insights on the methods developed by Communists for leading social revolution in peasant society ; more importantly, they illuminate the ways in which peasant life molded the concerns of Chinese Communists, and the outcome of the revolution they led.

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