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Quality Control and the Loss of the Commons

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Sturgeon, Janet
Conference: Politics of the Commons: Articulating Development and Strengthening Local Practices
Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Conf. Date: July 11-14, 2003
Date: 2003
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/457
Sector: Forestry
Social Organization
Region: East Asia
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
local governance and politics
elections
social networks
village organization
centralization
minorities
forest management
forest policy
Abstract: "This paper examines the local village elections held in 2000 in Mengsong, a Hani (Akha) administrative village in China. The elections are a focal point for exploring the converging effects of a number of current national policies and representations of people and the environment. These include the definitions of people of high quality and low quality (cf. Anagnost) in relation to minority nationalities; a new definition of citizens to include business people as one of the three groups in China (with peasants and workers) that the Chinese Communist Party represents; and the official rationale for the timber ban in Western China. By analyzing how these seemingly disparate representations and processes have played out in Mengsong, this study shows how the local village elections, under township guidance to elect 'people of quality', actually moved considerable control of local administration to the township level. The timber ban and the rising salience of business people, meanwhile, have taken much control over local land use away from Mengsong. The future 'people of quality' may well be the entrepreneurs from outside Mengsong who contract to mine its minerals, rather than the 'more educated' village officials put in place through the village elections. This study also reveals how the loss of commons from the timber ban, together with the loss of income from mining, have brought about a drop in household incomes, causing Mengsong to be designated in 2002 as an official 'poor village.'"

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