«Juanwen Yuan Thesis committee Thesis supervisor Prof. dr. A. Niehof Professor of Sociology of Consumers and Households Wageningen University Thesis ...»
The local people like to consult a fengshui master to tell them the right time ‘to transfer the fire’ from the old house to the new one. Many proverbs show the
importance of fire and the relationship with the household. Examples of these are:
“when there is no fire in the house, the household is incomplete”; “with a cold stove and a thin wall there is not really a family”; “mother, father is an intimate, but not as much as fire is”; or “fire is a friend, fire is a friend (repetition for
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emphasis), no fire, no friend”.
The villagers usually put the stove in the middle of the house and sit around it to chat and eat in winter. In winter, the stove is the centre of the house. If there is no fire in winter, guests will not stay. In summer, the stove is put in the middle of the house and is also used as a dining table. People sit and chat there, even if there is no fire. The form of the stove has been changing over the years. In the past, the villagers just dug a hole in the ground and used firewood for fuel.
Later, people began to add bricks to make it stove-shaped. Fifteen years ago, villagers began to use an iron stove that keeps the heat better. From that time onward, they also began to use more coal.
Labour exchange The Kaizuo villagers have a tradition to exchange labour during the peak season.
Several households work together to finish one task, especially planting, transplanting and harvesting, first in one household, and then move on to the next household. Sometimes, more than ten households work together. The host only prepares food and provides the helpers with three meals. There is no cash payment. Since ten years, things have been changing. In the upland villages, labour exchange still exists in the form of mutual help, but in most villages, the labour exchange has ceased. Even if there is, it is only between very close relatives, for a short period of time, because the villagers now pay more attention to the equivalence of exchange. If they cannot return the help in equivalent labour, they rather pay cash. Villagers now also prefer to employ people to do the tasks, because then they do not have to provide food, which is easier. Women, especially, are in favour of hiring help because they used to be responsible for the cooking.
Festivals While the municipality’s villagers celebrate Chinese New Year, Buyi people have their own festivals, which are closely related to daily life and agricultural production. The seedling festival falls on the third day of the third month (Sanyuesan) of the Chinese lunar calendar14, when sowing begins. On this occasion, villagers also pay respect and pray to their ancestors. The eighth day of the fourth month (Siyueba) of the lunar calendar is also called Cattle Day. People make offerings of black sticky rice to their cattle, to thank them for their drudging service during the year. The cattle are allowed to rest on this day. The sixth day of the sixth month (Liuyueliu) of the lunar calendar is the day on which people relax after some major land cultivation activities, and pray for good rainfall and good yields. At these festivals, the Buyi people take the opportunity to gather and talk about the enforcement of traditional village regulations. Most villagers in the same village are relatives. The Kaizuo villagers spend a lot of money on attending different kinds of activities, such as weddings, funerals, visiting a new-born child and mutual visiting during festivals. The expenditure on these activities accounts for at least 15 percent of the household budget.
The Chinese lunar calendar is about one month behind the Gregorian calendar.
Gender Men have a higher education than women, especially among the aged people in Kaizuo. Land was allocated to both men and women during the allocation period in the 1980s, but women are not the ones who inherit land, even if they get married in the same village. Men are the main decision makers in the household throughout the municipality, except for the two Buyi villages. Men and women have different tasks in agricultural and household activities. Women usually perform time-consuming tasks, while the men perform tasks requiring physical labour. Women take care of the household chores. Both men and women go to the market, but women do the actual selling. Men transport the products to the market, then go and chat with friends and relatives. They have no patience to wait for customers, while women are waiting to sell the products at a good price. Men buy goods for themselves and women buy the goods for household use.
Kaizuo men drink a lot of wine, especially in the village of Dabuyang.
Elderly women make rice wine and maize wine for home consumption. Now, women make less wine because they have money to buy it, and because it has become easier to buy it in the market.
The above discussions depict Kaizuo as a mixed Buyi and Han municipality, located in a mountainous area. In some respects, the culture of the Buyi people differs from that of the Han people. Farming is still their main livelihood activity, in spite of the increasing engagement in migration, including circular migration.
Rice, maize and rapeseed are the main crops here. The migrants usually are younger, married people and unmarried people. People who are older than 40 years do not commonly migrate to other provinces; their migration is circular only.
In this chapter, I shall describe the methodological design, fieldwork process, data collection methods, and data analysis. Because both the temporal perspective and the cohort approach play a key role in the research, the way they were applied receives due attention. At the end of the chapter, I will present some reflections on the fieldwork experience.
5.1 Methodological design This study consists of a longitudinal part and a cross-sectional part. Cohort analysis is used to integrate both. The basis for the study design is the cohort analysis. It implies three lines of inquiry: the cross-sectional one (vertical), dealt with by a household survey; changes through time (horizontal timeline); and the movements of the cohorts through time (diagonal timeline), dealt with by the life history method (see Figure 5.1).
5.1.1 The cohort perspective Ryder (1965: 845) has defined cohort as “the aggregate of individuals (within some population definition) who experienced the same event within the same time interval”. Since the effects of the introduction of the Household Responsibility System (HRS) – in the research area in 1980 – constitute the key theme in this study, in this research, the moment of household formation was used as the event commonly experienced by the members of the same cohort during the same time
interval. The cohorts distinguished are the following:
• The 1970s cohort (Cohort 1): the households established themselves as independent units during 1970-1980 and had experienced both the collective era and the HRS era.
• The 1980s cohort (Cohort 2): the households established themselves as independent units during 1980-1990 and experienced the start of the HRS.
• The 1990s cohort (Cohort 3): the households established themselves as independent units during 1990-2000 and only experienced the HRS era.
• The 2000s cohort (Cohort 4): the households established themselves as independent units from 2000 to the present and only experienced the HRS era.
5.1.2 The household’s life course perspective As discussed in Chapter 3, a temporal perspective will be used in documenting social change and uncovering the dynamics of a process. Several kinds of time are involved: historical time, daily time, individual time, and household time or family time. In this research, the important event in historical time is the implementation of the Household Responsibility System (HRS) in 1980; daily time is about time allocation arrangements on a daily basis, using a gender perspective; individual
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time is about women’s life histories; and household time is based on the household’s life course.
Because in present-day China, children’s schooling is crucial to the livelihood strategies of farming households, the household’s life course stages were
defined in relation to children’s schooling in the following way:
Stage 1, formation stage – the family consists of the husband, the wife and their child(ren). The oldest child is below school age (age seven). Usually, the new independent household is established when the first child is born, whereupon land and other properties are appointed to it.
Stage 2, school age stage, maturing stage or growing stage – the family has school age children, with the oldest child being 7-18 years of age.
Stage 3, matured stage – the oldest child is older than 18; the children have finished their schooling and are considered part of the household’s labour force.
Stage 4, post-parental stage – when all of the children have their own households and have left home, the parents stay alone or stay with only one adult (married) child.
5.1.3 A combination of perspectives and methods in the study design Figure 5.1 comprises three lines of inquiry that were used to achieve the research
1. Horizontal: compares the situations of the different cohorts per household’s life course stage, through the selection of case studies from each cohort and focus group discussions.
2. Vertical: compares the current situation of the different cohorts in various stages of the household’s life course and assesses socio-economic heterogeneity and social stratification, using a household survey, participant observation, key informant interviews, and PRA (mainly self-ranking).
3. Diagonal: follows each cohort through time and through the stages of the household’s life course, using the life history method.
Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used for data collection and analysis. A mix of methods has been applied to capture the different dimensions and perspectives (emic and etic15) of the research questions, and to establish the relevant interrelationships (for example, between household composition, asset ownership, gender roles and the division of labour, and women’s self-perceived responsibilities and power). Quantitative research can provide general information on a large sample that makes possible a statistical analysis, while qualitative research results provide “meanings of concepts in a given cultural context” (Scrimshaw, 1990:91). Their joint application optimizes both reliability and validity (Angrosino, 2002).
Key informant interviews, PRA, and focus group discussions (FGDs) provide information on community characteristics, extension services, general trends, and common opinions. It is difficult to ask about change through quantitative data collection. I used life histories, focus group discussions, key informant interviews, and participant observation to gain knowledge about and an understanding of the situation in the past and about the changes that have occurred.
The different methods were applied to strengthen one another (triangulation). Some methods are more specifically directed at eliciting certain aspects (FGDs and key informant interviews) or fill in the broader picture (PRA).
The case study method (including life histories) and the survey method form the core of the methodological approach, addressing the experience of women of the different cohorts and the contemporary distribution of household characteristics, livelihood characteristics, and land use patterns (also capturing stratification).
Secondary data and participant observation were used during the entire fieldwork process.
5.2 The fieldwork as a process The fieldwork for the primary data collection took 15 months, from August 2007 until September 2008. The detailed fieldwork activities are presented in Table 5.1.
The emic perspective is that of the actors themselves, the etic one that of the observers.
Although I had known the research area for ten years, it was the first time I conducted systematic research at the household level there. In July 2006 and March 2007, I did preliminary fieldwork to fine-tune my proposal. I collected secondary data and conducted preliminary interviews and focus group discussions.
During August-September 2007, I began my formal fieldwork. Firstly, I went to the field and had discussions with local township officials and villagers to finalize the selection of villages. September-October is harvesting season in the research area. For this reason, I did not have many meetings with villagers in August 2007 and September 2008. Instead, I collected secondary data about agricultural technology delivery mechanisms, government policies, and government projects in the municipality. At the same time, I interviewed key municipal officials, extension workers, and village leaders.
During October-December 2007, some villages finished their harvesting so I held a pilot survey with ten households to test the questionnaire in the two main research villages. I had discussions with villagers about the ranking of households in the research area in terms of income, landholding, and other socio-economic factors. I also conducted women’s life histories interviews and informal focus group discussions. I mainly focused on revising the questionnaire and preparing for the household survey in January 2008. I did some informal interviews and case studies as well.
In January 2008 and February 2008, I trained five bachelor students majoring in rural regional development as enumerators, who then conducted the household survey together with me. We made use of the students’ semester break, which enabled them to go with me. That period also proved to be a good time to meet migrated villagers coming home for the celebration of the Spring Festival, and interview them. During the process, I discovered that there were what I shall call ‘migrated households’ (husband and wife, bringing the children along or leaving them at home with relatives) that came back for the Spring Festival. I
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