Alexander Day studies the intellectual, social, and cultural history of peasants, food, and agrarian change in China. He teaches Chinese, East Asian, and world history. Read his Oxy Story profile.
Day arrived at Oxy in 2013 after teaching at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. He completed a dissertation on contemporary debates on the peasantry in China at UCSC in 2007. Building on his dissertation, his first book, The Peasant in Postsocialist China: History, Politics, and Capitalism (Cambridge University Press, 2013) centers on the question of why the peasant, and rural China more broadly, continually reappears as a figure of crisis in Chinese history. The book argues that recent debates on the peasant transcend contemporary policy issues and comprise the fundamental contradiction at the heart of Chinese modernity, the role of the peasant and the rural-urban split. This debate on the peasantry, moreover, is entangled with a rethinking of Chinese history in general.
Currently working on a new book project, Day is writing on the history of tea production in Western China from the 1920s through the 1970s. This new book project track the changing labor process of tea production in a northern Guizhou county in order to understand the emergence of the rural-urban split and the modernization of Chinese agriculture in the twentieth century. See the first article in this project published in Global Food History: “State-Directed Capitalist Agrarian Change in the Creation of China’s Biggest Tea County: Integrating Capital and Labor in Meitan County, Guizhou;” and, a 2021 interview on the project in Commodity Frontiers: “Working the Rural-Urban Divide: Alexander Day Traces a Century of Agricultural Modernisation in China’s Present-Day Tea Capital.”
Day is also part of a collaborative research project with Mindi Schneider of the International Institute of Social Sciences at The Hauge, entitled "Feeding China: The Project on China's Food Histories, Geographies, and Ecologies." See the project webpage here. The project traces capitalist transformations in China’s food and agricultural systems. Day and Schneider are interested in how these transformations are happening, and with what impacts for particularly rural people, places, and politics. To that end, they situate agrarian change in China both historically and geopolitically; they examine how things came to be this way, and how changes in China impact broader distributions of power, profit, and socio-ecological crises. Specific areas of critical analysis include: the rural-urban divide, peasant advocacy, rural activism, agribusiness politics, and capital’s ecological relations. See the China Food Studies Bibliography here. Our first article ("The end of alternatives? Capitalist transformation, rural activism and the politics of possibility in China") in the series is now online at The Journal of Peasant Studies.
East Asian Survey (HIST 141)
Capitalism (HIST 190)
Imperial China (HIST 242)
Modern China (HIST 243)
China and the World (HIST/DWA 245)
Peasant China in Transformation (HIST 295)
Writing World History (HIST 300)
Contemporary China: Reform, Rise, and Crisis (HIST 344)
A Global History of Anarchism (CSP)
The Transformation of Urban and Rural China (HIST 346) *this course has a three-week faculty-led study abroad component in China.
The Peasant in Postsocialist China: History, Politics, and Capitalism, Cambridge University Press, 2013.
(Paperback, hardback, and ebook available here.)
Articles and Book Chapters:
“State-Directed Capitalist Agrarian Change in the Creation of China’s Biggest Tea County: Integrating Capital and Labor in Meitan County, Guizhou.” In "Feeding, Eating, Worrying: Chinese Food Politics across Time," a special issue edited by Ling Zhang and Mindi Schneider, Global Food History (2022).
“Organising Rural Society: Disintegrating Rural Governance, Peasant Associations, and the Hailufeng Soviet.” In Proletarian China: A Century of Chinese Labour, eds. Ivan Franceschini and Christian Sorace. Acton, Australia, and New York: The Australian National University Press and Verso (June 2022).
“Breaking with the Family Form: Historical Categories, Social Reproduction, and Everyday Life in Late 1950s Rural China.” positions: East Asian Cultures Critique 29.4 (November 2021): 869-894.
“Peasant” (pdf). In Afterlives of Chinese Communism, eds. Christian Sorace, Ivan Franceschini, and Nicholas Loubere. Acton, Australia, and New York: The Australian National University Press and Verso, 2019.
"The end of alternatives? Capitalist transformation, rural activism and the politics of possibility in China." The Journal of Peasant Studies (November 2017).
." 开放时代 Kaifang Shidai (January 2017).
“A century of rural self-governance reforms: reimagining rural Chinese society in the post-taxation era.” The Journal of Peasant Studies 40.6 (November 2013): 929-954.
“History, Capitalism, and the Making of the Postsocialist Chinese Peasant.” In Global Capitalism and the Future of Agrarian Society, eds. Arif Dirlik, Roxann Prazniak, and Alexander Woodside. Boulder and London: Paradigm Publishers, 2012.
“The Central China School of Rural Studies: Guest Editor’s Introduction.” Chinese Sociology and Anthropology: A Journal of Translations, special issue on “The Central China School of Rural Studies,” 41.1 (Fall, 2008): 3-9.
“End of the Peasant: New Rural Reconstruction in China.” boundary 2 35.2 (Summer 2008): 49-73.
“Guest Editors’ Introduction.” With Matthew Hale, Chinese Sociology and Anthropology: A Journal of Translations, special issue on “New Rural Reconstruction,” 39.4 (Summer, 2007): 3-9.
“Lotta di classe nella Cina rurale? (Class struggle in rural China?).” Equilibri: Rivista per lo sviluppo sostenibile 11.1 (April 2007): 57-66.
“Depoliticization and the Chinese Intellectual Scene.” Review essay on Wang Hui’s End of the Revolution. Criticism 53.1 (Winter 2011).
“Interpreting the Cultural Revolution Politically.” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 7.4 (Dec. 2006): 705-712.
Guest editor, The PRC History Review, “Roundtable: Joel Andreas, Disenfranchised: The Rise and Fall of Industrial Citizenship in China,” 5.2 (December 2020)
Editorial board, Rural China, Brill (from 2019).
Advisory board, The PRC History Review (from 2019).
Book series editorial board, "Rethinking Socialism and Reform in China,” Brill (from 2016).
Guest editor, The PRC History Review, special issue “New Perspectives in PRC History,” 3.1 (September 2018), with editor’s introduction.
Guest editor with Matthew Hale, Chinese Sociology and Anthropology: A Journal of Translations, special issue on “The Central China School of Rural Studies,” 41.1 (Fall, 2008).
Guest editor with Matthew Hale, Chinese Sociology and Anthropology: A Journal of Translations, special issue on “New Rural Reconstruction,” 39.4 (Summer, 2007).
Schneider, M. 2021. “Working the Rural-Urban Divide: Alexander Day Traces a Century of Agricultural Modernisation in China’s Present-Day Tea Capital.” Commodity Frontiers 2 (2021): 10-15. doi: 10.18174/cf.2021a18079.
“Self-Expanding Consumerism?” (pdf). In a roundtable on Karl Gerth, Unending Capitalism: How Consumerism Negated China’s Communist Revolution, PRC History Review 5.1 (October 2020): 19-20.
Review of Prophets Unarmed: Chinese Trotskyists in Revolution, War, Jail, and the Return from Limbo, edited by Gregor Benton. In Journal of Asian Studies 78.2 (May 2019): 424-425.
Review of Paradoxes of Post-Mao Rural Reform: Initial Steps Toward A New Chinese Countryside, 1976–1981, by Frederick C. Teiwes and Warren Sun. In Pacific Affairs 91.3 (May 2019), 598-600.
Review of The Water Kingdom: A Secret History of China, by Philip Ball. In Washington Independent Review of Books (June 2017).
Review of Empire of Tea, by Markman Ellis, Richard Coulton, & Matthew Mauger. In Food, Culture & Society, 20.1 (2017).
Review of Tax Reform in Rural China: Revenue, Resistance, and Authoritarian Rule, by Hiroki Takeuchi. In Journal of Asian Studies 75.1 (Feb 2016).
Review of The Cultural Revolution at the Margins: Chinese Socialism in Crisis by Yiching Wu. In Twentieth-Century China 40.3 (Oct 2015).
Review of China Constructing Capitalism: Economic Life and Urban Change, by Michael Keith, Scott Lash, Jakob Arnoldi, and Tyler Rooker. In Pacific Affairs 88.2 (June 2015).
“Gender and the Collectivization of Rural Labor” (pdf). In a roundtable on Gail Hershatter’s The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past, PRC History Review 1.1 (May 2014): 3-5.
Review of Drink Water but Remember the Source: Moral Discourse in a Chinese Village by Ellen Oxfeld. In Asia Pacific World 3.1 (Spring 2012).
Review of The Politics of Rural Reform in China by Christian Göbel. In Journal of Agrarian Change 12.1 (January 2012).
“Uneven Urban Aesthetics in Contemporary China,” Review of Robin Visser’s Cities Surround the Countryside. H-Urban (January 2011).