From Heaven to Earth: Images and Experiences of Development in China

By Elisabeth Croll | Go to book overview

Appendix 2

Field methods

For many years now my fieldwork experiences in China have been of the short-term variety, lasting anything from one to several weeks. The most efficient and fruitful means of undertaking short-term field investigation in China is very much dependent on the subject of enquiry, the amount of documentary material available to the researcher and the type of access and time allowed for in the field itself. For close on thirty years and until quite recently, virtually no sociological surveys or fieldwork studies had been carried out in China either by Chinese of foreign social scientists. While Chinese sociologists have been undertaking some quite large-scale surveys and a very few foreign scholars have been successful in obtaining visas for longer-term fieldwork, most foreign anthropologists and sociologists wanting to do fieldwork in China have had to be content with limited forms of access frequently confined to three or four weeks. In these circumstances, fieldworkers face two questions: how to make the best use of such a short period of time in the field, and how to weigh up the various constraints and decide which are acceptable and which may seriously impair the value of the research itself. In addition to the time constraint, a second major factor to take into account in any field investigation is the existence of a clearly defined ideology representing social structures and social processes as they ‘ought to be’, how certain socio-political and economic institutions ought to function, and how political, social and economic relations ought to be constructed. It is thus more difficult to identify rapidly what actually is, as opposed to what ought to be. In terms of subject matter, it may therefore only be feasible to research the less intimate and politically sensitive areas for which data are relatively easily attainable and less subject to normative constraints. However, this does not necessarily preclude obtaining basic data which the researcher can use as the basis for more sensitive interpretation, argument and hypotheses.

During each of my own short periods in the field in China to investigate quite a wide range of specific topics. I have found a well-prepared village and household set of structured interviews with a scope and a focus appropriate to the subject and location and allowing for national and local

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From Heaven to Earth: Images and Experiences of Development in China
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xvii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Imaging Heaven 3
  • Part I - Reform: Household and Village 15
  • Chapter 2 - State Policies 17
  • Chapter 3 - Peasant Experiences 36
  • Part II - Readjustment: the Village 95
  • Chapter 4 - Resource Management 97
  • Chapter 5 - Information Networked 116
  • Chapter 6 - Income Generation 135
  • Part III - Readjustment: the Household 161
  • Chapter 7 - Aggregation 163
  • Chapter 8 - Continuity 181
  • Chapter 9 - Discontinuity 198
  • Conclusion 213
  • Chapter 10 - Living the Earth 215
  • Appendix 1 226
  • Appendix 2 292
  • Notes 299
  • Index 311
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