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Keywords:

  • China;
  • grassland campaign;
  • Inner Mongolia;
  • Mongols;
  • state policies;
  • Uxin Ju

ABSTRACT. This study explores the local experience of a state-initiated campaign to improve the grassland in Uxin Ju, a Mongolian community in northern China, from 1958 to 1966. The contrast between the local experience and the official representation reveals great discrepancies and attests to the ability of local people to utilize state policies to meet local needs, transforming socialist ideologies into local rationales. Applying Michel de Certeau's theory of everyday practice that sees book reading as poaching and the use/consumption of political and cultural discourses as a process of creative empowerment, I examine how the Mongols in Uxin Ju “poached” state politics to their own advantages and appropriated the grassland campaign in the making of the local landscape. This poaching further elucidates James Scott's concept of ideological resistance by focusing on the creative use of nonoppositional nature, which is an important way in which local people could express their agency in the oppressive regime of socialist China. This article calls attention to how nonsubversive co-optation of state policies can function as an expression of agency in the making of local human-environmental history, even on the part of individuals who are actively accommodating to the ideology of the dominant regime.