Classes at GMC: Inside View of Anthropology of Contemporary China

By: Matthias Baudinet

Being a Anthropology/Sociology minor here at Green Mountain College, I have taken many interesting classes. Studies in Anthropology/Sociology allow humans to better understand not only the contemporary world around them, but also the many different types of humans and their respective cultures. The human race has so many variations that it is impossible to know everything about every single culture in the world, but through anthropology/sociology perhaps we can work towards knowing as much as we can about the many different cultures of our fellow humans. 

In Professor Mark Dailey’s Anthropology of Contemporary China class, we have been been learning about the complex society that makes up modern-day China. It is crucial for modern students to know and understand the impact of China in current affairs, both politically and economically. Our future will definitely be shaped in some way by China’s decisions.


China continues to experience complex and fascinating changes.  A socialist economy has been transforming into a largely capitalistic one, affecting all levels of Chinese society.  At the same time, deep cultural traditions and values are increasingly interacting with global forces in ways that are transforming peoples’ lives. These changes are creating a “new China” that is currently seeking to truly understand what it means to be “Chinese” in the 21st century. 

In the course,  we have used the lens of cultural anthropology to examine how social and economic forces are effecting peoples’ everyday lives, paying particular attention to rural to urban migration, class stratification, family and work life, religious practice, gender roles, national and ethnic identity, environmental issues, and nationalist ideologies. In a country with a population of over a billion people, it is really interesting to see these social and economic forces can affect all aspects of Chinese society and culture.

The books that we have used in the class include Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip From Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler, and Restless China by Perry Link. The first book is a travel memoir by a man who has lived in China from 10 years. His book recounts the incredible mileage of his journey throughout the massive country of China. Traveling the small back roads of the country side, meeting secluded Chinese peasants, while also roaming the busy and dangerous streets of Beijing and meeting wealthy upcoming businessmen. His book gives the reader specific details of the modern Chinese lifestyle that represents and portrays phenomenons happening all over China. Restless China is a collection of essays and articles on contemporary China that addresses and attempts to explain the many complexities and variability of a Chinese culture that is transforming because of its exposure to globalization and capitalism.


        Through readings, essays, discussions, debates, and presentations the five students in the class (including myself) have been able to “excavate” an ever-changing culture that seems to adapt itself to the modern world, while also maintaining many important aspects of its traditional culture.

This class has been one of my favorite classes at Green Mountain College. Mark Daily is a great professor and the fact that he has studied much about China, done extensive research in China, and has a genuine passion/interest of everything Chinese make the class very enjoyable. Classes and professors like the ones described in here are numerous at GMC. A student can always find classes that they will truly enjoy and in the process become better students.

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