Understanding small-holding households in a changing Chinese village
This thesis looks in detail at four small-holding households in a Chinese village that is experiencing the rapid industrialisation and urbanisation that has occurred in China over a number of decades. The research explores the dynamics of the households, which are at a point where traditional values and modes of living are challenged by the changing social, economic and cultural context. These small-holding village households are characterised by an interdependent set of family and household relationships and an intricate interplay between cultural expectations, resources dynamics, bonds of affect and economic and social activities. The research draws upon key literature concerned with household, family and economic life, to analyse the research data concerning these Chinese village households experiencing change. The research has been conducted within a narrative inquiry framework, as an appropriate approach for understanding the processes of adaptation to changes at the levels of households and individual members: what people do, how they feel, how they interpret ‘the self’ in the context of social, economic and cultural change, and how they talk about all of this. Fieldwork was carried out over the period from 2011 to 2014 in the village of Shang (a pseudonym) in the Huangshan area, Anhui province. In-depth interviews, informal interviews and conversations with household members were combined with long-term participant observation in the village, encompassing various households and many social events. The analysis of the resulting data is provided around three key topics: ‘Divisions of Labour, Household Work and Changing Economic Life’, ‘Resources and the Household’, and ‘Household and Networks’. People have a range of different ways of coping with changes, influenced by many factors including their roles and aspirations and bonds of love and caring; while at the household level, the different styles and layers of livelihood are influenced by and in turn influence the organisation of material and particularly non-material resources in the household. The stories that people tell about their experiences, feelings and understandings demonstrate that they are actively responding and adapting to change rather than being passive recipients or resistant to this. Both change and continuity are witnessed through focusing analysis at both individual and household levels. Combining ideas about the household as a resource system and a narrative inquiry approach provides detailed insights on Chinese village households in their changing social and economic context.