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Guilty of IndigenceThe Urban Poor in China, 1900-1953$
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Janet Y. Chen

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691152103

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691152103.001.0001

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“Parasites upon Society”

“Parasites upon Society”

(p.46) Chapter 2 “Parasites upon Society”
Guilty of Indigence

Janet Y. Chen

Princeton University Press

This chapter explores how the metaphor equating the nonworking poor with “parasites” became ingrained in sociological thinking. In the first decade of the Republic, the advent of sociology as a new field of knowledge in China attempted to study “poverty” on a scientific basis. As left-wing intellectuals valorized labor and foreign missionaries promoted “scientific charity” based on work relief, these ideas converged with workhouses and poorhouses that provided custodial detention in the guise of both punishment and charity. In addition, this chapter begins the story of Shanghai's straw hut shantytowns, and the protracted battles between their residents and the International Settlement's Municipal Council.

Keywords:   social parasites, sociology, scientific charity, work relief, workhouses, poorhouses, custodial detention, shantytowns

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