PERSONAL: Female. Education: University of Michigan, Ph.D., 1973.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Cornell University Press, Sage House, 512 East State St., Ithaca, NY 14850.
CAREER: Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, professor emeritus and retired lecturer; has also taught at Stanford University, Stanford, CA.
(Editor and contributor, with Emily Martin Ahern) TheAnthropology of Taiwanese Society, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1981.
Chinese Working-Class Lives: Getting By in Taiwan, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1987.
(Editor, with Alice Littlefield) Marxist Approaches inEconomic Anthropology: Understanding Economic Process, University Press of American (Lanham, MD), 1991.
China's Motor: A Thousand Years of Petty Capitalism, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1996.
Looking for Chengdu: A Woman's Adventures in China, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1999.
SIDELIGHTS: A noted anthropologist and scholar of China and Taiwan, Hill Gates applies her intellectual analysis to both broad, abstract issues, such as the economics of China, and to smaller, more personal topics, such as the means by which individuals manage to make a living in Taiwan.
In China's Motor: A Thousand Years of Petty Capitalism, Gates argues that two primary economic production models, the petty capitalist mode of Production (PCMP) and the tributary mode of production (TMP), have driven the Chinese economy for more than a thousand years—specifically, since the Song dynasty of 960 to 1279. The PCMP is a family-based means of production "in which the labor of kin (especially women) was exploited to produce goods for market," explained Melissa Macauley in the Journal of Economic History. Goods under the PCMP model were produced to sell rather than for personal use. PCMP does not "transmute into full-fledged capitalism" because "the goal is capital accumulation through legally autonomous private property and rights," observed Prasenjit Duara in the American Journal of Sociology. TMP "was associated with the ruling regimes and included the court and official-scholars who controlled the polity and who extracted 'surpluses' from the masses," Huang Shu-min added in the China Journal. Both methods of production are dependent upon and competitive with each other; TMP relies on the production of goods for market by the PCMP producers, and PMCP expects maintenance of the "patriarchal structure through which surplus is extracted from women and children to profit men in the family and state," Duara wrote. The interplay of these two modes of production is, according the Gates, the "engine" that drives the Chinese economy.
Robert B. Marks, writing in the American Historical Review, commented that with China's Motor, "Gates has written an important, engaging, and readable book about China that will be of interest to historians." Gates "proffers a theoretical dynamic that is rich with explanatory power and possibilities even when her historical application of it is not always convincing on some key issues," said Macauley. A Choice contributor further commented that "readers may find themselves repeatedly at odds with Gates's thesis, yet still provoked and engaged by her book." And Thomas B. Gold, writing in the Journal of Interdisciplinary History, commented that "this is a deliberately interdisciplinary work, although its main thrust is anthropological. It is unquestionably the product of meticulous work and wide-ranging reading and thinking."
The effects of the Chinese economy on the individuals who live within it are explored in Chinese Working-Class Lives: Getting By in Taiwan. In this work, "Hill Gates gives the reader a comprehensive picture of working-class life on Taiwan in the 1980s," according to Mark C. Thelin in Contemporary Sociology. The book consists of the life stories of nine working-class people in modern Taiwan and the means they use to eke out a living in a difficult economic environment. Shopkeepers, clerks, factory workers, manual laborers, service workers, and ex-soldiers—most of them elderly—all tell their stories. Some talk freely; others still exhibit a caution learned from years under Japanese colonial rule. Their stories are largely transcriptions of their free-flowing observations and recollections. Mrs. Lim, for example, describes owning and operating a small snack bar based in the front of her house; a polio-stricken woman runs a photocopying business; a low-paid library custodian lives alone and wonders what became of his family in China; a couple lives unmarried in a long-term relationship and takes pride in having finally managed to save the money necessary to buy a house, which is considered "a more important symbol of respectability than a formal marriage document," said Norma Diamond in the American Ethnologist. "Taken together, they represent the shared experiences and perceptions of a larger social class," Diamond remarked. Other chapters in the book offer detailed discussion by Gates on topics such as family, age, economics, folk religion, and education.
"Hill Gates has provided us with an informative anthropological portrait of the lives of ordinary people in Taiwan," wrote Martin King Whyte in the China Quarterly. "The book is intended as an introduction to 'ordinary' Taiwanese society, and is aimed especially at new students of things Chinese," observed Mick Moore in International Affairs. "This is not an audience for an academic social anthropologist, yet Gates has done a first-class job," Moore concluded. Janet W. Salaff, writing in the Journal of Asian Studies, commented, "This is rich material drawn from the experiences of ordinary people, and its strength is to be found in both its rarity and its reality." And Lynda S. Bell, reviewing the book in Economic Development and Cultural Change, remarked, "As a whole, the work provides an excellent introduction—perhaps the best we have—to difficult issues in the recent history of the Taiwan working class."
Gates has also served as editor, with Emily Martin Ahern, and contributor to The Anthropology of Taiwanese Society. Based on papers delivered at a 1976 conference of the Social Science Research Council, the book provides a summary and overview of the anthropological work on Taiwanese society extant to that date. Essays cover six main topics: ethnicity, the family, religion and ritual, local organization, economic organization, and political organization. "The synopses are active rather than merely passive syntheses of recent research, and so will appeal to specialist as well as nonspecialist readers, whilst also helping to contextualize the more particularistic papers," observed Stuart Thompson in the China Quarterly. "This is an important book," added James P. McGough in the American Anthropologist. "It illuminates the successes and problems of the past and the possibilities for the future of the anthropological study of Taiwan."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Anthropologist, December, 1982, James P. McGough, review of The Anthropology of Taiwanese Society, pp. 918-920; March, 1989, Bernard Wong, review of Chinese Working-Class Lives: Getting By in Taiwan, pp. 231-232; March, 1994, James W. Wessman, review of Marxist Approaches in Economic Anthropology: Understanding Economic Process, pp. 209-210.
American Ethnologist, May, 1983, David K. Jordan, review of The Anthropology of Taiwanese Society, pp. 394-395; February, 1989, Norma Diamond, review of Chinese Working-Class Lives, pp. 183-184.
American Historical Review, December, 1997, Robert B. Marks, review of China's Motor: A Thousand Years of Petty Capitalism, pp. 1544-1545.
American Journal of Sociology, January, 1997, Prasenjit Duara, review of China's Motor, pp. 1168-1169.
Annals of the American Academy of Political andSocial Science, May, 1982, review of The Anthropology of Taiwanese Society, pp. 152-153.
Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, January, 1983, Goran Aijmer, review of The Anthropology of Taiwanese Society, pp. 189-192.
Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies,University of London, Volume 46, number 2, 1983, Rubie S. Watson, review of The Anthropology of Taiwanese Society, pp. 384-385.
China Journal, January, 1997, Huang Shu-min, review of China's Motor, pp. 117-120.
China Quarterly, March, 1984, Stuart Thompson, review of The Anthropology of Taiwanese Society, pp. 152-153; September, 1988, Martin King Whyte, review of Chinese Working-Class Lives, pp. 489-491.
Choice, September, 1996, review of China's Motor, p. 175.
Contemporary Sociology, March, 1989, Mark C. Thelin, review of Chinese Working-Class Lives, p. 183.
Economic Development and Cultural Change, July, 1990, Lynda S. Bell, review of Chinese Working-Class Lives, pp. 888-894.
International Affairs, spring, 1989, Mick Moore, review of Chinese Working-Class Lives, p. 381.
Journal of Asian Studies, November, 1988, Janet W. Salaff, review of Chinese Working-Class Lives, pp. 849-850.
Journal of Economic History, June, 1997, Melissa Macauley, review of China's Motor, pp. 552-553.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, autumn, 1997, Thomas B. Gold, review of China's Motor, pp. 336-337.
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, September, 1997, Steven Harrell, review of China's Motor, pp. 609-610; June, 2001, Charles Stafford, review of Looking for Chengdu: A Woman's Adventure in China, p. 370.
Library Journal, February 1, 1996, Dennis L. Noble, review of China's Motor, p. 87.
Pacific Affairs, winter, 1981-82, J. Bruce Jacobs, "Chinese Studies, Cross-Cultural Studies, and Taiwan," pp. 688-698; winter, 1988-89, Stephen Feuchtwang, review of Chinese Working-Class Lives, pp. 676-677.
Publishers Weekly, October 18, 1999, Jeff Zaleski, Paul Gediman, Charlotte Abbott, and Sarah Gold, review of Looking for Chengdu, pp. 60-61.*