Agrarian Sovereignty vs. Coastal Economy: The Puzzle of the Wenzhou Model
A talk by Mayfair Yang (UCSB)
Friday, January 21, 2005
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
The "Wenzhou model" of economic development has posed a puzzle for Chinese scholars. How did such an impoverished backwater place like rural Wenzhou develop so rapidly with practically no outside investment? Professor Mayfair Yang suggests that what is missing in most accounts of the Wenzhou model is a cultural and historical genealogy of Wenzhou's economy as embedded in local indigenous culture. She seeks to position Wenzhou in the late imperial history of a coastal economy in which urbanization, commercialization, and globalization were already well underway since the Song dynasty. However, since the beginning of the Ming dynasty, the forces of agrarian sovereignty overtook these coastal developments and sealed the maritime borders. The mid-twentieth century saw a renewal of agrarian sovereignty, and what emerged in the 1980's is but the recovery of that interrupted coastal economy.
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Mayfair Yang (Ph.D., UC Berkeley) is professor of Anthropology at UC Santa Barbara. Yang is interested in issues of modernity, such as, in her words, "the break with traditional orders and the collective anxieties, ordeals, and insanities of modernity." Yang's cultural and geographical region of specialization is China and it's offshoot cultures and diaspora in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia and the West. Her book on gift and state economies in China (Gifts, Favors, and Banquets: The Art of Social Relationships in China; Cornell U Press, 1994) won the American Ethnological Society First Book Prize in 1997. With a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation, she conducted fieldwork in rural Wenzhou (in southeast China) on the revival of popular religion and lineages as forms of indigenous civil society. A Chiang Ching-kuo research grant enabled comparative fieldwork on popular religion in Taiwan.
Professor Yang is also interested in the development of mass media and popular culture (print, film, television, videotape, VCD, telephone, the internet, etc.), their social impact especially in non-Western societies, and "the construction of new transnational forms of subjectivity through transnational movements of media."
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Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies