A study of lineage, migration and social support in South China
The departure point for this project is that forms of social support develop and change within specific social-cultural and historical contexts. Two key historical facts frame this project in South China: the general absence of state-run social security and welfare for most people, most of the time; and the radical economic and social changes that have taken place in the post Mao era.
I explore the links between two very different (and yet overlapping) waves of migration in Meizhou Prefecture. International and internal migrants are often treated as separate, but the two historical experiences are very similar in the local imagination/construction and practices of social support.
Through a comparison of the old international huaqiao and the new internal migrants, I expect to find more similarities than differences in the ways that social support is mobilized and negotiated from the outside world into the village. The village and the general local area which is both the sending and receiving ends of its “wandering sons and daughters” (youzi) is an ideal ethnographic site to examine the transmission and transformation of these similarities and differences related to the various issues of social support. Conceptually, the project draws from anthropological theories of ethics, particularly in relation to the return of migrants. The discourse of ethics, morality, family/community obligation, and the coexisting trend of individualization are both entangled in the negotiation process of giving and receiving social support. The anthropology of charity is highly relevant here, as are ideas about age, which is a key factor in constructing the idea of care needs and the resources of care provision.