China in Comparative Perspective

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Johannes Steinmuller OLD 5.06A and Prof Stephan Feuchtwang SHF 3.01


This course is compulsory on the MSc in China in Comparative Perspective. This course is available on the MSc in Anthropology and Development, MSc in Anthropology and Development Management and MSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Places are limited and priority is given to MSc China in Comparative Perspective students.

Course content

The main object of the course is to help students develop ways of putting the politics, economy and social life of China into a framework in which they can compare and juxtapose it with other major examples. Students will bring whatever theoretical approaches they have already learned and are continuing to learn in the disciplines they bring to the course. They will be expected to demonstrate and explain how they are using them as well as to listen to other approaches and disciplinary perspectives. The topics for each week are as follows: 1. Introduction; 2. The Imperial Bureaucracy; 3. Great and Little Tradition; 4. Long-term history and political economy comparisons; 5. Economic and demographic transitions; 6. Chinese Religion; 7. Nationalism and the Modern State; 8. Revolution and Maoism; 9. Socialism; 10. Postsocialism; 11. The Countryside; 12. The City; 13. Family and Gender; 14. Property rights; 15. Consumerism; 16. School and ideology; 17. Civil society; 18. The Rule of Law; 19. Democracy and Political Reform; 20. Transnational China.


15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT. 15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT. 6 hours of lectures and 4 hours of seminars in the ST.

Formative coursework

Those who have registered for this degree (but not those who take this as a unit in another degree) will attend tutorials in groups of three to five every two weeks, starting in week 2. For these tutorials, students will write four essays, two in Michaelmas Term and two in Lent Term. These essays will not be assessed for the degree.

Indicative reading

Deng, Kent G. 2003. ‘Development and its deadlock in imperial China’, Economic Development and Cultural Change 51:2, pp 479-522.

Fei Xiaotong 1992 [1948]. From the Soil, the Foundations of Chinese Society: A Translation of Fei Xiaotong’s Xiangtu Zhongguo, with an Introduction and Epilogue, transl. Gary Hamilton and Wang Zheng, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Goody, Jack 2006. The Theft of History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Harrison, Henrietta 2001. China (Inventing the Nation). London: Arnold.

Kaviraj, Sudipta and Sunil Khilnani (eds) 2001. Civil society: history and possibilities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Stockman, Norman 2001. Understanding Chinese Society. Cambridge: Polity.

Spence, Jonathan D. 1991. The search for modern China. New York: Norton.

Van de Veer, Peter and Lehmann, Hartmut (eds) 1999. Nation and Religion: Perspectives on Europe and Asia. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Weber, Max 1951. The Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism, transl. Hans H. Gerth, New York: The Free Press.

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

Zarrow, Peter 2005. China in War and Revolution, 1895-1949. London: Routledge.


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.

Teachers' comment

In interpreting the Course Survey results, bear in mind that over the period covered by the survey this course has been taught by a number of different teachers (who might not be teaching you in the next session). In addition, the course material may have changed quite considerably.

Key facts

Department: Anthropology

Total students 2014/15: 32

Average class size 2014/15: 11

Controlled access 2014/15: Yes

Lecture capture used 2014/15: Yes (LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information