Tracing China

A Forty-Year Ethnographic Journey


Helen F. Siu

ISBN : 978-988-8083-73-2

Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology

August 2016

528 pages, 6″ x 9″, 34 b&w illus.; 1 chart and 17 tables

  • HK$450.00

Tracing China’s journey began from exploring rural revolution and reconstitutions of community in South China. Spanning decades of rural-urban divide, it finally uncovers China’s global reach and Hong Kong’s cross-border dynamics. Helen Siu traverses physical and cultural landscapes to examine political tumults transforming into everyday lives, and fathom the depths of human drama amid China’s frenetic momentum toward modernity. Highlighting complicity, Siu portrays how villagers, urbanites, cadres, entrepreneurs, and intellectuals—laden with historical baggage—venture forward. But have they victimized themselves in the process?

This essay collection, informed by critical social theories and shaped by careful scrutiny of fieldwork and archival texts, is woven by key historical/anthropological themes—culture, history, power, place-making, and identity formation. Siu stresses process and contingency and argues that culture and society are constructed through human actions with nuanced meanings, moral imagination, and contested interests. Challenging the notion that social/political changes are mere linear historical progressions, she traces layers of the past in present realities.

Helen F. Siu is professor of anthropology at Yale University, and founding director of the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong.

“Helen Siu is one of the world’s leading specialists on Chinese rural and urban society. Her essays, collected here, cover a wide range of topics of interest to anthropologists, sociologists, geographers, economists, and political scientists. Siu focuses on the ‘underside’ of social life in South China, a quality so often missing in the work of others. She writes with great skill and empathy.” —James L. Watson, Fairbank Professor of Chinese Society and Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, Harvard University

“No one has woven the threads of ethnography, social structure, and cultural performance so brilliantly together as Helen Siu has in Tracing China. This rich tapestry of her finest scholarship illuminates how culture, power, and history can be deployed to yield wholly original and convincing understandings of southern China.” —James C. Scott, Sterling Professor of Political Science and Anthropology, Yale University