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 Sichuan and Guizhou in order to understand how the rural-urban split was produced in the twentieth century.
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:
"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.
“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.
“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.
Journal Special Issue Editorship:
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).
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).
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).
Professional Society Memberships:
American Historical Association
Association for Asian Studies