Yan, Yunxiang 1954–

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Yan, Yunxiang 1954–

PERSONAL:

Born 1954. Education: Harvard University, Ph.D., 1993.

ADDRESSES:

Office—University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Anthropology, 341 Haines Hall, Box 951553, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1553; fax: 310-206-7833; University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Chinese Studies, 11381 Bunche Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1487. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Academic and anthropologist. University of California, Los Angeles, professor of anthropology, codirector of the Center for Chinese Studies.

WRITINGS:

The Flow of Gifts: Reciprocity and Social Networks in a Chinese Village, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1996.

Private Life under Socialism: Love, Intimacy, and Family Change in a Chinese Village, 1949-1999, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 2003.

Contributor to periodicals and academic journals, including Ethnology and Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry.

SIDELIGHTS:

Yunxiang Yan is an academic and anthropologist. He published his first book, The Flow of Gifts: Reciprocity and Social Networks in a Chinese Village, in 1996. The ethnological account looks at the practice of exchanging gifts and building social networks in China. Yan performed his doctoral fieldwork in the village of Xiajia, a fairly affluent community in northeastern China. He chose the locale because he had previously spent some time in the village as part of an exchange himself, where his cousin helped members of the community acquire difficult-to-find electrical products. Yan systematically recorded the data on gift exchanges, which are also recorded in gift lists and accounting tables. Yan looks at a variety of types of gift giving and exchanges and their circumstances, including betrothal and marriage exchanges, ceremonial exchanges relating to reproductive matters, and those based on kinship lines. Yan also covers exchanges as part of a moral economy. Ellen R. Judd, reviewing the book in Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, observed that "Yan explicitly rejects a theoretical approach based on strategies of gift giving and individual motivations in favour of examining the ‘cultural rules and operative logic of gift exchange.’" Judd concluded: "The systematic character of his study and the richness of his ethnographic illustrations have allowed Yunxiang Yan to provide anthropology with what will become the standard work on the gift in rural China."

Yan also based his second book, Private Life under Socialism: Love, Intimacy, and Family Change in a Chinese Village, 1949-1999, on his study in the village of Xiajia. Centered more on his own experiences rather than those of others in the village, Yan examines the various changes occurring in this traditional village, including on matters of love, courtship, intimacy, premarital sex, conjugal love, relations between spouses in the context of the greater family, gender roles, domesticity and space, privacy, caring for the village elderly, individual property rights, and what Yan perceives as a laziness in public opinion. Yan argues that through each of these topics, a paradigm shift has occurred where personal interests are beginning to trump family or community interests. Yan's conclusions mirror the results from other studies measuring changes in urban Chinese households, showing that more autonomous youths, feminist movements, and commercialism are leading causes for this shift. Yan also points to the socialist state as being responsible for weakening the patriarchal system that had been in place in China for thousands of years.

Mary Scoggin, reviewing the book in China Review International, commented that "Yan provides extremely powerful and, given his ties to this place, courageous coverage of the ‘rise of local bullies as a legitimate political force in the countryside,’ with details of outrageous abuse and cynicism. In addition, his ‘accidental’ illumination of the ‘crisis of filial piety,’ resulting in the precarious and heartbreaking fate of the elderly after the triumph of conjugality, is clearly driven by the depth of his ethnographic reach." Scoggin concluded that "this book has shortcomings in its spotty theoretical engagement, but it is a highly valuable work nonetheless, full of insight and intuitive sensibility. Yan's congenial writing style, clarity, and even his refusal to make theoretical commitments make it an excellent choice for classes and seminars; I have recommended this book to several friends for these purposes already."

Similarly, Lisa Fischler, writing in the Canadian Journal of History, remarked on the "immense benefit to all China scholars provided by this excellent, thoughtful ethnography." And Robert L. Moore, writing in Pacific Affairs, called Private Life under Socialism "unsurpassed in the wealth of data it offers on what might be called the modernization of a traditional peasant community." Moore added that the author's "deep familiarity with China, his eye for detail and his systematic cataloguing of crucial data make this a landmark in Chinese studies, and a model of what a good ethnography should look like. It stands as an invaluable source of information for anyone interested in China, in modern peasant life or in ethnographic methods."

David Faure, reviewing the book in the Journal of Social History, commented that "the evolution of family life is fascinating, but perhaps along with it, there is another story that needs to be told, of the Manchus and the landlords who used to be in the village before 1949, and the recent migrants into villages of this part of China, the festivities and their settling into homesteads and families, the banditry and war of the bygone age, and the mores of the distant frontier." "Beautifully crafted, this study provides a sobering look at changes in rural Chinese family life, while shedding rare light on the inner moral and emotional world of the Chinese villager," wrote Susan Greenhalgh in the Population and Development Review. "It is an important contribution to the anthropology of rural China."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Yan, Yunxiang, Private Life under Socialism: Love, Intimacy, and Family Change in a Chinese Village, 1949-1999, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 2003.

PERIODICALS

American Ethnologist, November 1, 1996, Jun Jing, review of The Flow of Gifts: Reciprocity and Social Networks in a Chinese Village, p. 910.

American Historical Review, April 1, 2004, Susan Glosser, review of Private Life under Socialism: Love, Intimacy, and Family Change in a Chinese Village, 1949-1999, p. 493.

American Journal of Sociology, November 1, 2003, Jui-shan Chang, review of Private Life under Socialism, p. 783.

Asian Affairs, February 1, 1997, Elisabeth Croll, review of The Flow of Gifts, p. 154.

Canadian Journal of History, August 1, 2004, Lisa Fischler, review of Private Life under Socialism, p. 434.

Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, November 1, 1997, Ellen R. Judd, review of The Flow of Gifts, p. 483.

China Quarterly, June 1, 1997, Yanjie Bian, review of The Flow of Gifts, p. 474; March 1, 2004, Frank N. Pieke, review of Private Life under Socialism, p. 227.

China Review International, September 22, 2005, Mary Scoggin, review of Private Life under Socialism, p. 574.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, December 1, 2003, review of Private Life under Socialism, p. 795; December 1, 2003, H.T. Wong, review of Private Life under Socialism, p. 795.

Comparative Studies in Society and History, October 1, 2006, review of Private Life under Socialism, p. 946.

Contemporary Sociology, July 1, 2004, Gail Hershatter, review of Private Life under Socialism, p. 433.

History: Review of New Books, September 22, 2003, Robert J. Antony, review of Private Life under Socialism, p. 31.

Journal of Asian Studies, November 1, 1998, Xin Liu, review of The Flow of Gifts, p. 1129; February 1, 2005, Li Zhang, review of Private Life under Socialism, p. 182.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History, June 22, 2004, Beatrice Bartlett, review of Private Life under Socialism, p. 180.

Journal of Social History, June 22, 2006, David Faure, review of Private Life under Socialism, p. 1199.

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, March 1, 1998, Hill Gates, review of The Flow of Gifts, p. 185.

Library Journal, June 1, 2003, Peggy Spitzer, review of Private Life under Socialism, p. 142.

Pacific Affairs, September 22, 2004, Robert L. Moore, review of Private Life under Socialism, p. 555.

Population and Development Review, September 1, 2003, Susan Greenhalgh, review of Private Life under Socialism, p. 531.

Reference & Research Book News, August 1, 2003, review of Private Life under Socialism, p. 132.

ONLINE

University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Chinese Studies Web site,http://www.international.ucla.edu/china/ (June 19, 2008), author profile.

University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Anthropology Web site,http://www.anthro.ucla.edu/ (June 19, 2008), author profile.

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Yan, Yunxiang 1954–

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