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February 1988
264 pages  

6 x 9
9780822985693
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A Chinese Beggars' Den
Poverty and Mobility in an Underclass Community
Schak, David
In this fascinating study of a community of Chinese beggars, Schak offers evidence that challenges widely held theories on poverty. It is a path-breaking, systematic anthropological study that is one of the few works on beggars available.

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David C. Schak is adjunct associate professor at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia.
“Development studies have tended to ignore beggars as an unproductive social category, but a study of this subcategory of the poor in Taipei shows people with flexibility and creativity in day-to-day strategy, social organization, and macro-social relations. . . . Those concerned with the social mobility of the urban poor will find much of value.”—World Development

“Interesting and scholarly . . . a contribution to the study of mendicancy and poverty.”—American Anthropologist

“An important ethnographic look into a community of beggars in northern Taiwan. . . . A major addition to the new but growing literature on poor communities in China, and it contributes importantly to general theories of poverty and mobility.”—Journal of Asian Studies

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In this fascinating study of a community of Chinese beggars, David Schak offers evidence that challenges widely held theories on poverty. It is a path-breaking, systematic anthropological study that challenges long-held beliefs about poverty, and is one of the few works on beggars available. Over a period of seven years, Schak's fieldwork uncovers a structure of leadership, organizational methods, and alms-getting tactics. Moreover, certain members became upwardly mobile and able to leave this lifestyle. The severe stigma of gambling, adultery, and failure to marry proved the stimulus for a younger generation to leave begging behind.
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