I would first like to thank my family for their enormous support and inspiration. I am particularly grateful to my mother, Susan Harwood, for encouraging me to pursue an advanced academic degree and for her sage words of advice, guidance, and feedback. I would like to thank my father, Errol Harwood, for his generous support and motivation, particularly during my studies. Thanks also to Robyn Daniels for her generosity and guidance. My heartfelt thanks to Kate Harwood, Bruce McGurk, Mia McGurk, Jake McGurk, Jan Harwood, Robert Harwood, and Zhang Xiaomiao. This book is in part dedicated to my late Nana, Betty Mettam.
I also dedicate this book to Geoffrey Davis, my Chinese language teacher at Mount Lawley Senior High School. I am enormously grateful to Geoff, who first sparked my interest in China and China studies. In many respects, the book is a testament to the importance of exposing students at all stages of the education system to the Chinese language, China studies, and Asian studies and languages in general, as well as to the importance of cultivating and supporting educators with skills in these areas. Geoff has the gift of making a subject matter both relevant and interesting to his students. It is because of his enthusiasm and dedication that I ultimately pursued my engagement with China studies. I am also sincerely thankful to Anita Chong at Mount Lawley, who organized our class visit to China in 1993, which firmly cemented my interest in China, for her teaching during my senior high school years. In a period when Australia is looking at ways to strengthen its relationship with China, we should look to the critical, but at times forgotten, role that teachers such as Geoff and Anita have played in building people-to-people linkages with China for more than thirty years. Like most teachers, Geoff and Anita are not driven by fame, vanity, or profit; they are simply dedicated to and passionate about the teaching of the Chinese language and China studies and about engendering that same dedication and passion among their students.
I feel greatly indebted to Gary Sigley, who first took me on as a postgraduate student in 2002 and suggested I focus on the Nu River Valley for my research. While there were certainly times during my fieldwork that I pondered whether a research project in the urban comforts of Shanghai or Beijing might have been a wiser option than working in one of China’s most isolated rural communities, I thank Gary for his belief in me and for pushing me to pursue this ultimately highly rewarding research topic. It was an important lesson that the path of greatest resistance, though painful at times, can also lead to the most fulfilling outcomes and life experiences.
Thanks also to Lynette Parker for her practical advice and guidance. I owe a huge thanks to Elaine Jeffreys, who has been a generous mentor and great friend over the years. I am particularly grateful for Elaine’s advice on managing the publication process.
I thank my close friends Doug Smith, one of the unsung heroes of Australia’s Asian studies community, for his astute advice and observations; Aaron Hales, for helping to keep me sane and in good humor; and Mark Pinoli, for always seeming to know the right thing to say at the right time. I am deeply appreciative of Robert and Myrna Tonkinson’s friendship, support, and wise words of advice.
Andreas (Andy) Wilkes’s guidance and support greatly enhanced this research project. Andy provided very generous feedback and always responded to my numerous questions and emails with constructive and detailed advice. I have drawn heavily upon Andy’s excellent and extensive research on northwestern Yunnan, which you can find listed in the bibliography.
I am greatly indebted to Stevan Harrell for his mentorship and extensive and very helpful feedback on my book manuscript. Steve’s own work sets an extremely high standard, and it has been a huge honor to work with and learn from one of the leading scholars in the field. I am very grateful for his belief in me and his support for this book project. To that end, I must also acknowledge the Worldwide Universities Network, which funded my attendance at the 2009 China in the World postgraduate workshop at the University of Oslo. This conference afforded me the opportunity to meet Steve and to discuss my research with him.
A very big thank you to Lorri Hagman, executive editor at University of Washington Press, for her advocacy, for driving this project to publication, and for her generous editorial advice. Thank you also to Tim Zimmermann, Jacqueline Volin, Rachael Levay, David Peattie at Book-Matters, and Laura Harger for their meticulous assistance with copy editing, design, and marketing.
Thank you to my academic reviewers, Colin Mackerras, David S. G. Goodman, and Lisa Hoffman, and to two anonymous reviewers of the book manuscript for the University of Washington Press. Their scrutiny and insights have added significant rigor to the book’s analysis and arguments.
I would also like to acknowledge the support of the Rotary Club of Matilda Bay, particularly Annie Wearne, Rob Ockerby, Bob Dunn, and Jaap Poll. While not directly linked to this book project, the Rotary Club of Matilda Bay provided financial support for the Safe Path project, discussed in this book’s conclusion. Aside from making a tangible contribution to livelihoods in Gongshan, the project also provided me with unintended but extremely useful insights into the machinations of local government and government-community relations in contemporary rural China. My presentations on Gongshan and the path project always elicited stimulating questions and discussion among the club’s members that greatly enriched my research experience. Similarly, I acknowledge the generous support of the Jack Family Charitable Trust, Patti Chong, Jen Wheeler, and the Western Australian community for supporting the university scholarship program. These community projects were made possible through the administrative support of the Confucius Institute at the University of Western Australia (UWA).
I would also like to thank the following people: Kath and Ron Mercer, Diao Qigang, He Hongguang, Huang Yingying, Chris Gill, Ivan Roberts, Cecilia Leong-Salobir, Jiang Na, Tamara Jacka, Eva Chye, Judith Berman, Jane Hardy, Craig Mouncey, the staff in the Discipline of Asian Studies at UWA, Li Jia, Wang Liyong, Zhou Yan, Mao Hongqi, Johanna Hood, and Per Henningsgaard.
Finally, I would like to thank the people of Gongshan for welcoming me into their community and for their generosity, time, and patience. During interviews with local farmers, I was often asked why I was asking questions about their livelihoods and household economies and how my research would affect and/or benefit them. I found these very legitimate questions uncomfortable. It not only made me consider how I would react if a stranger came into my household and began asking questions about my occupation and livelihood; it also made me appreciate that my research was in many ways highly self-indulgent. My research would contribute to academic discourse but was very unlikely to make a tangible contribution to Gongshan society. The path and scholarship projects I discuss in the conclusion were two of the ways that I sought to give something back to a community that has given so much to me. However, I also hope that this book provides a useful and balanced perspective on the challenges and often contradictory demands confronting communities in China’s Nu River Valley as they continue to negotiate the rapid and fundamental transformation of their way of life.
My research was made possible by an Australian Postgraduate Award and academic mentorship through the Discipline of Asian Studies at UWA, a UWA Graduate Research School Student Travel Award, a UWA Dean of Faculty of Arts Postgraduate Travel Award, funding provided by UWA’s School of Social and Cultural Studies, and a one-month Australia-China Council Residency in Beijing in 2005. Between 2005 and 2006, I undertook a year of further intensive Chinese-language study at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou under a Chinese government scholarship that greatly enhanced my fieldwork and engagement with Chinese language–based texts.
All opinions and views presented in this book are mine alone. I take responsibility for any errors and omissions.