This article is partially based on fieldwork supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological research and a 2003–04 fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the 2007 International Conference for Chinese Studies, Nanjing University, China, the 2007 annual meeting of the British Association for Chinese Studies, and the Department of Sociology at University of Hong Kong. I am grateful to the participants of the conferences/seminar who offered helpful comments on my presentation. I owe special thanks to Arthur Kleinman, Frank Pieke, Charles Stafford, James Watson, and an anonymous reviewer for reading the early drafts and providing valuable critique and suggestions.
The Good Samaritan's new trouble: A study of the changing moral landscape in contemporary China1
Version of Record online: 18 FEB 2009
© 2009 European Association of Social Anthropologists
Special Issue: Anthropology of contemporary China
Volume 17, Issue 1, pages 9–24, February 2009
How to Cite
Yan, Y. (2009), The Good Samaritan's new trouble: A study of the changing moral landscape in contemporary China. Social Anthropology, 17: 9–24. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8676.2008.00055.x
- Issue online: 18 FEB 2009
- Version of Record online: 18 FEB 2009
- Good Samaritan;
- social change;
- the individual
Modernization often involves changes in behaviour norms, values, and moral reasoning; China is by no means an exception. The present study focuses on a rare type of extreme immoral cases in which the Good Samaritan is extorted by the very person being helped. A particular effort is made to unpack why most extortionists of the Good Samaritan are elderly people. Despite its rare occurrence, cases of extorting Good Samaritans have seriously negative impacts on social trust, compassion, and the principle of reciprocity. Yet, a close analysis of the cases and public opinions reveals the complexity of the seemingly straight immoral behaviour, especially the tension between two moral systems and the challenge of dealing with strangers, which in turn reflect the changing moral landscape in contemporary Chinese society.