Rich in historical perspective on women and men in the context of economic development, this ethnography provides a unique window on rural China since the 1930s. Laurel Bossen uses her detailed knowledge to explore theories regarding such momentous changes as the demise of footbinding, the transformation and feminization of farming, the rise of family planning, and the question of missing daughters. Based on anthropological research conducted during the 1990s in Lu Village and informed by the classic 1930s study of the same village by Fei Xiaotong, China's most famous anthropologist, Chinese Women and Rural Development goes beyond the enduring myths and cardboard images of women as either victims or heroes. Highlighting women's work in a complex farming economy and their choices in marriage and family, the book portrays individuals confronting a variety of changes, ranging from drastic to gradual, in their daily lives. Bossen examines the economic, social, and political practices both upholding and altering the boundaries of gender in the face of shifting state and market forces over time. Throughout, Lu Village women defy stereotypes, yet their stories, rooted in the reality of Yunnan province, express the commonalities and continuities of gender in rural China.
Fresh and insightful. An extremely strong contribution to the literature on both women in China and in rural development more broadly. The author is leading the wave of new ethnography that explores and encompasses a local cultural whole. Specialists will find the book fascinating; students will find it accessible and likable.--Hill Gates, Stanford University