Feminization of Agricultural Production in Rural China – PhD-thesis Xiangdan Meng

January 2014 Xiangdan Meng has successfully defended her PhD-thesis “Feminization of Agricultural Production in Rural China:
A Sociological Analysis“. It can still be viewed at wurtv.wur.nl.

Rural-urban migration of male labour force is an unstoppable process in China. Although some women also migrate to work in cities, most of these women return to the villages after marriage. They need to take care of the children and the family and to work on their smallholder farms. In general, women’s labour participation in agriculture has increased due to the migration of the male labourers and they have become the main labour force in smallholder agriculture. This thesis is a sociological analysis on the impact of this change on the situation of these women and on smallholder agriculture from the women’s perspective.

Based on the empirically findings, this research argues three points. Firstly, the significance of agricultural production is not adequately recognized by the female peasants. To some extent, it induces the denial of their contribution to agricultural production and to the household. Secondly, rural gender studies related to agricultural production in China is not on the right track, as is shown in the following four aspects: 1) the view of the involved women themselves is nearly absent; 2) little attention is paid to the decision-making aspects in agriculture; 3) women are usually taken as passive victims and negative judgements are commonly put centre stage; 4) within the framework of modernization and urbanization ideology, there is hardly any conceptual space for specific development trajectories that build on an increased role of rural women. Thirdly, rural development could follow different trajectories that go against the current modernization and urbanization ideology in China. Rural development could also imply a strengthening of multifunctional agriculture and could cover the issues of diversity, environment, cooperation, innovation, autonomy and social commitment.

Xiangdan Meng has a new position at the Philosophy and Sociology Department of Jilin University in China. For more information you also mail at: mengxiangdan@126.com.