Wheels and Sweat: Bicycles, Wheelbarrows, and Horse-Drawn Carts in the Everyday Life of Socialist China, 1949 to 1976


Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Predissertation-Summer Travel Grants




In Maoist China, bicycles, wheelbarrows, and horse-drawn carts, were central to all segments of the economy, from state-led construction to the plowing of rice fields. This dissertation excavates previously unused archives in four different locations in order to understand how the state used such muscle-powered technologies to appropriate the transportation capacity embodied in its human and animal laborers. It goes beyond a state-centered narrative to explore the ways grassroots actors from black-market peddlers to members of rural communes, re-appropriated these technologies to serve their own interests. In so doing, the dissertation provides a case study of Socialist production and utilization of technology that spans the "commanding heights" of the economy down to everyday life in the countryside.