The knowledge cultures of changing farming practices in a water town of the Southern Yangtze Valley, China

Pingyang Liu, Neil Ravenscroft, Marie Harder, Xingyi Dai

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This paper presents an oral history of farming in the Southern Yangtze Valley in China, covering the period from pre-liberation to recent market liberalization. Using the stories and observations of 31 elderly residents of a small water town, the paper describes the hard labor of traditional farming practices and the acquiescence of many when, post-liberation, they could leave farming for better-paid factory work. However, in a departure from conventional analyses, these oral histories suggest that the co-dependency culture of traditional farming has broken down, and farmers are unwilling to return to the land and continue farming. The changes in knowledge cultures of local farmers in recent decades are not likely to lead to pathways to working with incoming modern “outsider farmers,” nor able to be blended with potential new “urbanite” knowledges of those who might wish to increase organic farming. The current knowledge cultures of these farmers has shifted as needed to the optimization of family unit needs, naturally leading them to urbanization and the relinquishing of their ties to the land. For cultural rather than economic reasons, these farmers see themselves as the last peasant farmers of Tianshanzhuang.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-304
Number of pages14
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2015

Bibliographical note

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  • Farming practices
  • Knowledge cultures
  • Small-scale farming
  • Oral history


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