Current Institutional Affiliation
Professor, History, Simon Fraser University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2004
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of California / San Diego
Between Village and City: Rural-Urban Exchange and Conflict in the People’s Republic of China

My dissertation will examine exchange and conflict among Chinese villages, small towns, and cities in the Tianjin region during the Mao era (1949-1976). How did rural-urban networks and patterns of movement-of people, ideas, and goods-shift and evolve during the Mao years? What were the political, social, and cultural consequences of a system that rhetorically elevated villagers to lofty heights but in law and practice locked rural residents to their land and made them second-class citizens? This problematic disjunction-cultural integration and rhetorical celebration coinciding with legal separation and discrimination-lies at the center of my investigation. To address these issues, I will draw upon extensive interviews and documents from municipal and county archives in the Tianjin area. In particular, I will emphasize local agency and highlight mediating figures who straddled the rural-urban divide. Sent-down youth, soldiers, rural students, temporary workers and especially brigade leaders, who lived and worked in villages but regularly attended political meetings in larger towns and cities, all brokered between competing personal, familial, local, regional, and national interests. How did these mediators, in their dual roles, transform villages and cities? I will analyze the extent to which brokers and other rural residents were able to translate their elevated revolutionary status into political power or economic benefits. I will also trace how shifts in national and local politics affected the balance of actors' status, power, and class over time.