Sheng Long

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Michigan, Ann Arbor, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9548

Approve Date

October 11, 2017

Project Title

Long, Sheng, U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'Numbering Land: The Quantification of Property and Social Category in Rural China Reforms,' supervised by Dr. Erik Mueggler

The doctoral research aims to understand how numbers and numeracy are used by various social actors to strategize around land reforms. In particular, the project sets out to study how land is calculated by farmers, village cadres, and government staffs; how calculations are manipulated and negotiated by different stakeholders; and how numeracy otherwise relates to the acquisition of status and power in decision-making in rural China. The project is situated in the ongoing land reform in China, which will push forward the previous de-collectivization reform by validating the land data and legitimizing private land usage right. For the first time after 1949, rural land in China will be allowed to be directly sold on the market without government involvement. By foregrounding the ongoing nation-wide land census, the project will look into how the reckoning of land data also becomes a reckoning of social relations accumulated throughout previous rural reforms. It will be an ethnography of the production of numbers by underrepresented populations. To explore the overarching research question, I aim to answer two sets of queries. The first query is about how different social actors produce numbers, individually and cooperatively, in numerical governance. The second query is about how numbers mediate the definitions of social relations centering on land. This research will contribute to anthropology of numbers, STS (science and technology studies), governance, and personhood/property relationship. My project will bring together materiality, sociality, and intellectual operations of numbers in both everyday practices and governmental quantification projects.