Trans-local ruralism: the formation of inter-regional clan associations in contemporary China

Topics: Rural Geography, China
Keywords: Trans-local ruralism; clan association; social network; lineage; China
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Congressional A, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper attempts to foreground the notion of trans-local ruralism by drawing on a case study of Zhejiang Province Clan Cai Association (ZPCCA). ZPCCA consists of a group of people with the same surname Cai from different parts of Zhejiang Province, China. Its formation has rural roots. For one thing, this clan association is initiated and founded by a group of lineage elites from rural Wenzhou, and for another, established on the basis of the involvement of many villagers, which comprise the majority of association members. In this paper, I begin with the exploration of why rural people extend their kinship relations beyond traditionally geographical and cultural boundaries and form connections with other lineages under the same surname at the trans-local scale. I argue that the formation of inter-regional clan associations is driven by the growth of rural China’s trans-locality and also by rural lineage groups’ desire for improving social status at local society. Next, I explore how rural lineage elites adopt various strategies to create/consolidate the trans-local networking, including the establishment of institutional arrangements, the construction of a common cultural identity and the performance of socio-welfare activities. Finally, I investigate how the formation of trans-local lineage networks provides avenues in/through which members gain socio-cultural capital and carry out (in)formal economic activities and collaborations. In doing so, I attempt to shed light on the openness and trans-locality of rural social networks and also the agency of rural people in the context of an increasingly urbanized and mobilized rural society.

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