Just One Child


"This is a seminal contribution to policy making as a subject of anthropological study. But to say only this would obscure the often gripping and intricate story of Chinese expert politics, where rocket scientists seized the initiative in defining historic demographic policy. Only a master ethnographer like Greenhalgh could capture it all."--George Marcus, author of Ethnography through Thick and Thin

"China's 'one child' policy is often dismissed in the West as the misguided work of an alien civilization with fundamentally flawed conceptions of human rights. Greenhalgh shows how, on the contrary, it was scientific aspirations and a thirst for high-tech rationality, imported from the military to the civilian sphere, that co-produced this particular excess of planning in the post-Mao era. This is not just a devastating critique of Chinese population policy, but a thought-provoking look at the dark side of the politics of science."--Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard University

"'One child.' With those two words, China launched one of the largest political, biological, and social upheavals of modern times. In a remarkably researched and thoughtful book, Susan Greenhalgh approaches this decades-long struggle armed with political science, anthropology, and science studies. The result is a book to be reckoned with in all these disciplines."--Peter L. Galison, Harvard University

"This is a superb work of scholarship, fundamentally altering our knowledge of one of the most important policies ever made in the People's Republic of China, and the ways we go about knowing China. First, it is by far the most detailed study of the origins of one of the most controversial, significant, wide-ranging, and as the study makes clear, least understood decisions of the post-Mao China political system. China's one-child family policy is rarely treated with detachment, and its origins have been obscured. This book is likely to be the definitive study on their origins. Second, the mode of analysis-an ethnography of elite decision-making combined with the science studies literature and elements of theories popular in anthropology and critical studies yields insights political scientists were not likely to have come up when employing the tools of their discipline. The book thus becomes an important case for the use of such modes of analysis in and of themselves, and opens new possibilities in how policy studies in China might be done. Third, beyond the specifics of how the one-child policy came into being and the mode of analysis, the book provides broader contributions on the nature of policy-making, agenda setting, uses of rhetoric, and how elements of the political culture affect the political system in China. The overall book is exemplary in all respects."--David Bachman, University of Washington

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