The University of Arizona

Reconsidering governmental effects of grassland science and policy in China

Michael L. Zukosky


This article explores why local pastoral land use arrangements in northwestern China differ from national level grassland policy objectives and initiatives. Drawing on the local particularities of fieldwork in a Chinese ethnic minority region, I argue that the land use arrangements which resulted from the implementation of decollectivization and new grassland management policies represent both an engagement of the minority area by the central government, but also a way that the residents of one locality have engaged the state in culturally specific ways. Applying contemporary theory in the ethnography of the state (Das and Poole 2004, Mitchell 1989; 1999; 2000, Taussig 1996) and the anthropology of development (Li 1999, Moore 2005) to data from recent ethnographic fieldwork, this article reflects upon how documents and practices as well as ideas of grassland policy make possible certain kinds of political symbols which render invisible to the central government local interests and resource conflicts, and thus, a narrative of a seemingly coherent, consistent, and organized state.

Key Words: China, grassland policy, ethnic minority, decollectivization

Full Text: