Silencing the Poor: The Statist-Liberal Incapacity in Western Hunan

  • Chih-yu Shih


Poverty is not a subject matter familiar to most political scientists, although their research agenda refers to poverty in one way or another. There is no shared definition of poverty among liberals, Marxists, institutionalists, Confucianists, and socialists. Their approaches toward teaching the state how to define and intervene with poverty differ drastically from one another. This chapter reports on field interviews of Helping-the-Poor teams conducted at the Xiangxi Tujia-Miao Autonomous Prefecture. From the interviews, it appears that poverty has a different meaning when different people living in different places refer to it at different times. Poverty can be defined by income, life necessity, infrastructure, motivation for higher profit, distributional justice, or ecological condition. In China, officials at various levels, Helping-the-Poor team members, village cadres, and villagers all participate in defining poverty. The theoretical implication for political anthropologists is that the state is no longer able to monopolize the poverty discourse.


Team Member Market Competition Central Authority Local Villager County Government 
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  1. 1.
    Hao Keming, “Preface,” in Face Poverty ([miandui pinqiong]), ed. Zhang Li, 2. (Nanning: Guangxi Education Press, 1998).Google Scholar

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© Chih-yu Shih 2007

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  • Chih-yu Shih

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