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Chinese Working-Class Lives

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Chinese Working-Class Lives is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Chinese Working-Class Lives

Getting By in Taiwan

Hill Gates

270 Pages
Paperback
ISBN: 9781501727900
Cornell University Press

Taiwan’s working class has been shaped by Chinese tradition, by colonialism, and by rapid industrialization. This book defines that class, explores that history, and presents with sensitive honesty the life experiences of some of its women and men. Hill Gates first provides a solid and informative introduction to Taiwan’s history, showing how mainland China, Japan, the convulsions of twentieth-century wars, and the East Asian economic expansion interacted in forming Taiwanese urban life. She introduces nine individuals from Taiwan’s three major ethnic groups to tell the stories of their lives in their own words. The narrators include a fortuneteller, a woman laborer, and a retired air force mechanic. A former spirit medium and a janitor are among the others who speak.

Reviews

"Words and phrases that best describe this book are ‘absorbing,’ ‘insightful,’ ‘straightforward,’ and ‘it makes you wish you had done it yourself.’ Through effectively telling nine life histories of mostly middle-aged people, Hill Gates gives the reader a comprehensive picture of working-class life on Taiwan in the 1980s. Gates has sought to present a range of types in some depth—thus portraying very clearly the life and cultures of this class on this island."

- Mark C. Thelin, Contemporary Sociology

"Gates’s life-history method gains strength as it places the individual in concentric circles, overlapping groups, networks, and fragments of relationship to society. The reader learns about the structure of society from the bottom up, as it is seen and experienced by its participants. 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."

- Janet W. Salaff, Journal of Asian Studies

About the Author

Hill Gates has retired as a lecturer in anthropology at Stanford University. She is the author of China’s Motor: A Thousand Years of Petty Capitalism and Looking for Chengdu: A Woman's Adventures in China, both from Cornell University Press.

This work can be downloaded for non-commercial purposes:

Creative Commons License
Chinese Working-Class Lives is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.