2023-24 Lloyd & Susanne Rudolph Field Research Fellow



“Strange Bedfellows”: Reproductive Labor, Family Strategies, and Marriage Disputes during and after China's Great Leap Forward, 1958-1965e Qing’s Indigenous Foresters: The Qingshui River Documents and the Miao Forest Frontier, 1726-1949



As recent research has shown, China was home to a large market in sexual, reproductive, and domestic labor. This involved outright trafficking in women and children who were abducted from their homes, families selling their female members, and even women selling themselves into marriage or servitude. While it is commonly assumed that this trade ended after 1949 when Mao's government attempted to limit population mobility and modernize the family system, this project reveals that such efforts were largely futile. This project studies families’ survival strategies by trading their female members’ sexual, reproductive, and domestic labor during and immediately after China’s Great Leap Forward. Their survival strategies went hand in hand with the state’s judicial and administrative intervention in such illicit practices. This particular way of responding to famine permits us to explore law, morals, gendered division of labor, post-famine politics, and the state’s frontier strategies in the Mao era. 



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Xiangning Li is a Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago (History, 2020).  Her research interests include gender history, the history of law and society, and the global history of cold war.