Text SizeText Size
News & Events

News & Events

l1 l2
Call For Papers! Special Issue/Edited Volume “Rural Frontiers: Projects, Experiments, and the Dialectics of Chinese Modernity”

A Brief Concept Note

This is a call for participation in a collective project aiming to generate new insights on the fast, massive, and substantive transformations in rural China. Two main perspectives used to dominate our understanding of rural China. The first modernist approach assumes the rural, as the less modern category, to be eventually integrated into the urban proper. The second approach, being either conservative or progressive, perceives the rural to embody local knowledge, unique cultures, and other elements that potentially counter the modernity order. Despite of their different political stances, both approaches consider the rural to be the modernity’s other. This project, however, draws attention to an often overlooked fact: rural China, as China’s marginalized places, has been at the forefront of advancing the Chinese revolution and reforms in the 20th century, and has been home to many key intellectual debates, social experiments and social imaginaries in contemporary China. The concept of "frontier" encapsulates a paradox in Chinese modernity: Chinese modernity is founded on the marginalization of the rural, yet these marginalized rural zones harbor the greatest potential for advancement, as they are on the edge of or distant from the capital-intensive development regime. This distance results in fewer restrictions for new projects led by states, non-state actors, and even individuals. Therefore, rural frontiers are more than just a spatial location - they embody novel social, cultural, and political imaginations. Understanding these rural frontiers is key to comprehending some of the most significant social transformations occurring in China and beyond.

This collective project, either in the format of a special issue or edited volume, brings together case studies of rural China’s projects of various kinds and multiple scales to conceptualize and crystalize China’s rural frontiers. Rural frontiers may relate to radical experiment, massive projects, and confrontation of ideas. Specifically, we invite papers addressing one or more of the following themes/key questions:

1. Projects: How do infrastructural, environmental, and ecological projects unfold in rural China?

2. Experiments: What are the social experiments (such as NGO, or rural cooperatives projects) that are redefining the rural villages and even peri-urban and urban communities?

3. Emergent trends: What are the new lifestyles, food cultures, and mobility patterns in and beyond rural China?

4. Conflicts: What are the social, cultural and symbolic confrontations at China’s rural frontiers?

5. Existential struggles and social imaginations: How do people live amidst radical environmental, social, and cultural transformation? What are the new imaginations regarding a better society and future?

The pioneer projects in rural frontiers themselves not only go beyond the rural-urban divide but also transcend institutional, spatial, and cultural boundaries. Therefore, we invite submission of qualitative research articles that problematize the rural-urban dichotomy, rather than reinforcing it. We appreciate research articles that are attentive to social change through the lens of political economy and political ecology. We also value research articles that shed light on everyday experience and new modes of living through ethnography and psychoanalysis. We would appreciate that scholars from anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, history and other related disciplines participate in this collective project.

 Guideline for Submission:

Length of the publication:

All articles should be between 8,000-10,000 words, including references.

Deadline of submission:

1) abstract of 500 words (max) + short bio of 200 words
    • Due on 31 August 2024
    • All the potential contributors will be notified about the selection result by September 15, 2024

2) first draft
    • Due on 31 January 2025
    • The first draft will be circulated among the contributors during the workshop

3) final draft
    • Due on 1 June 2025

Workshop Plan (tentative)

Tentative schedule: February 2025

We plan to organize a workshop after selecting the suitable paper contributions. This workshop will facilitate intellectual exchanges on the themes listed above. We will also discuss the publication plan further during the workshop. The workshop will take place either in Hong Kong or Beijing. We will inform the contributors in due course.


The project receives funding support from the Peking University–Hong Kong Polytechnic University China Social Work Research Centre (Project ID: P0042704), and from the ECS research grant from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (Project ID: 25607320).


Please direct submissions to:

Yang Zhan
Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology
Department of Applied Social Sciences
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
[email protected]

Please direct your questions to:

Xi Lan
Post-doctoral fellow
China and Global Development Network
Department of Applied Social Sciences
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
[email protected]