Description

Ploughshare Village

Culture and Context in Taiwan, with a new preface by the author

Stevan Harrell

  • Published: November 2014
  • Subject Listing: Anthropology, Asian Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 262 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Contents

This anthropological study of a workers' village in North Taiwan makes an important contribution to the comparative literature on Chinese and Taiwanese social organization. Based on fieldwork conducted in 1973 and 1978, the study is exceptional not only because of its excellent data but also because the village itself was unique. Unlike villages previously studied and written about, Ploughshare was neither an agricultural nor a fishing village, but rather one whose inhabitants earned their living mostly from coal mining, knitting, and other non-agrarian activities. Culture and environmental context thus shaped social organization there differently than in other Taiwanese villages. This ethnography links local data to surrounding socioeconomic spheres: it shows the village's relationship to its region, to Taiwan as a whole, and to the international economy. It also captures an important point in time, as Taiwan was undergoing the "economic miracle" that brought it into the ranks of developed countries. Stevan Harrell's new preface highlights changes not only in the village over the last several decades, but also in the ways that anthropologists think about culture and Taiwan.

Ploughshare Village
, with its rich descriptions and analyses, will be of value to anthropologists, sociologists, economists, and China specialists.
Stevan Harrell is professor of anthropology and environmental and forest sciences at the University of Washington. He is the author of Ways of Being Ethnic in Southwest China; coauthor of Fieldwork Connections: The Fabric of Ethnographic Collaboration in China and America; editor of Cultural Encounters of China's Ethnic Frontiers; and coeditor of Cultural Change in Postwar Taiwan.
Reviews

"Ploughshare Village balances between Taiwan's hills and plains as its people do between laborers and petty entrepreneurs. Stevan Harrell neatly builds these and the many other dialectical relationships he perceives in Ploughshare into an exceptional anthropological study."
-Journal of Asian Studies

"Strongly recommend[ed] . . . not just to readers interested in China and Taiwan . . . but to those having broad interests in economic development, Marxian analyses, and dependency theories."
-American Anthropologist

"By focusing on a village of labourers Harrell provides a useful comparison for all the previous studies of farming and fishing communities. . . . One of the best works we have in sinological anthropology. . . . An excellent illustration . . . of how a detailed village study can be linked, through time, to the wider systems in which it is placed."
-Man

"A welcome addition to the growing literature on contemporary China. . . . Demonstrate[s] how Chinese social structure . . . is utilized in varying socioeconomic contexts."
-American Ethnologist

"This anthropological study of a workers' village in North Taiwan makes an important contribution to the comparative literature on Chinese social organization."
-Choice