Ploughshare Village

Culture and Context in Taiwan

Stevan Harrell

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  • Published: 1982
  • Subject Listing: Anthropology
    Asian Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 248 pp., illus., maps, glossary, bibliog., index
  • Series: Publications on Asia of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies
  • Contents

This anthropological study of a workers’ village in North Taiwan makes an important contribution to the comparative literature on Chinese social organization. Based on two periods of field work in 1973 and 1978, and adding a further historical perspective, this study is exceptional not only because of its excellent data but also because the village itself is unique. Unlike villages previously studied and written about, Ploughshare is neither an agricultural nor a fishing village, but rather one whose inhabitant have earned their living mostly from coal mining, knitting, and other non-agrarian activities.

The most significant contribution of this book is the way it links local data to the surrounding socioeconomic spheres: the village is related to its wider region, to Taiwan as a whole, and to the international economy of which it is a part. The author explains why the social organization of Ploughshare is different in important respects from that of other Chinese villages. His analysis revolves around two key concepts: the culture and the context, or larger environmental conditions. His thesis is that neither one of these factors is sufficient in itself to explain the nature of Ploughshare but that each plays an important role in shaping this Taiwanese village, and indeed any community.

“Ploughshare Village,” with its rich descriptions, analyses and up-to-date treatment of social change in Taiwan will be of value to anthropologists, sociologists, economists, and to China specialists.