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On the Move

On the Move: Women and Rural-to-Urban Migration in Contemporary China

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    On the Move
    Book Description:

    This book explores the impact of migration on the identities, values, worldviews, and social positions of migrant women in contemporary China based on original fieldwork as well as in-depth research in multiple regions of China.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50173-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: Focusing on Migrant Women
    (pp. 1-38)
    Tamara Jacka and Arianne M. Gaetano

    China today is undergoing a process of rapid and massive social and economic changes comparable to the industrial revolution that occurred in Europe, but squeezed into decades rather than spread over centuries. One of the most visible and significant manifestations of this process has been a huge increase in migration from the largely agricultural countryside and remote rural interior to the relatively industrialized urban areas, particularly the towns, cities, and Special Economic Zones of the coastal provinces, as well as the provincial-level cities. Most of these migrants are so-called unofficial, temporary, de facto, or nonhukou migrants, belonging to what is...


    • 1. Filial Daughters, Modern Women: Migrant Domestic Workers in Post-Mao Beijing
      (pp. 41-79)
      Arianne M. Gaetano

      In the broadest sense, the goal of China’s reform platform is to achieve a modernity (xiandaihua) that involves “linking tracks with the rest of the world” (yu shijie jiegui) and otherwise overcoming a sense of having fallen behind the more economically advanced West.¹ This discourse of modernity constructs a chronotope² of rural/urban difference, whereby residing in the countryside and being a peasant imply being left behind temporally in the drive toward progress, and lacking the moral “quality” (suzhi) required of citizens to advance socialist modernity.³ Rural women figure into this schema as paradigmatically traditional (chuantong) or backward (luohou).⁴ As Harriet...

    • 2. From Peasant Women to Bar Hostesses: Gender and Modernity in Post–Mao Dalian
      (pp. 80-108)
      Tiantian Zheng

      This chapter offers a case study of rural migrant women working as bar hostesses in the port city of Dalian in Liaoning province. Called in Chinese sanpei xiaojie (misses accompanying [men] in three ways), referring to their escorting capabilities of drinking, dancing, and sexual services, these rural migrant women form a steadily growing contingent of illegal prostitutes or sex workers. This chapter examines the daily survival strategies of bar hostesses in Dalian and the ways in which these young women deploy their marginalization and oppression to defy and resignify their social status.

      The argument developed in this chapter is based...

    • 3. Indoctrination, Fetishization, and Compassion: Media Constructions of the Migrant Woman
      (pp. 109-128)
      Wanning Sun

      Hong Zhaodi¹ is a twenty-year-old woman from a village in Suxian county, Anhui province. She, her parents, and two brothers live off the land. Poverty forced her to drop out of school at the age of thirteen. In early 1998 she heard from one of her friends that an acquaintance named Liu Feng ran a factory in Guangzhou and was looking for someone to do the bookkeeping. Seeing this as a way to get herself and her family out of poverty, Hong left home and traveled south. After arriving in Guangzhou, Hong was taken to see her prospective boss. Little...


    • 4. Dilemmas of the Heart: Rural Working Women and Their Hopes for the Future
      (pp. 131-150)
      Louise Beynon

      The growing incidence of female rural migration in China has been reflected in the increasing number of surveys and papers documenting the migration paths and characteristics of female migrants. Drawing on this material, this chapter seeks to take a more cultural approach to migration, as defined by Frank Pieke above. Rather than detailing the ways in which young rural women come to the city and their daily working lives, I seek to link their experiences of migration to their changing attitudes to life and the choices they have to make in crafting a future for themselves. In particular, I try...

    • 5. Living as Double Outsiders: Migrant Women’s Experiences of Marriage in a County-Level City
      (pp. 151-174)
      Lin Tan and Susan E. Short

      A significant increase in migration, and especially rural-to-urban migration, has accompanied China’s economic reforms. Although initially scholars described women as “associational” migrants (who migrated because their spouse migrated or lived elsewhere), more recently, significant independent migration among women has been widely acknowledged.¹ As a consequence, attention is now devoted to women who move from rural to urban areas to take advantage of jobs or other opportunities to earn money.² Though the shift in focus is warranted given that most women report that they migrate for economic reasons, we contend that researchers must be careful not to focus solely on migrant...


    • 6. Out to the City and Back to the Village: The Experiences and Contributions of Rural Women Migrating from Sichuan and Anhui
      (pp. 177-206)
      C. Cindy Fan

      A great deal of attention, scholarly and otherwise, has focused on the massive rural-to-urban migration in China since the beginning of economic reforms, but researchers have only recently begun to examine the role of gender in migration.¹ Most of their works highlight structural relations, such as the impact of political, sociocultural, and economic determinants on men’s and women’s positions in the labor market and on their roles in the village household. Relatively little attention has been given to the agency of migrants and the contributions they make. This is due in part to a lack of empirical field-based information, and...

    • 7. The Migration Experiences of Young Women from Four Counties in Sichuan and Anhui
      (pp. 207-242)
      Binbin Lou, Zhenzhen Zheng, Rachel Connelly and Kenneth D. Roberts

      This chapter draws upon research conducted with rural women from Anhui and Sichuan who migrated to a town or city outside of their home county and then returned to rural life. It seeks to explore these women’s understandings of and feelings about their past experiences of migration and life in the city, and the impact that migration had upon their present circumstances and their perceptions of the future.

      Our analysis is based on fieldwork carried out during August and September 2000 in four counties of Anhui and Sichuan provinces, as part of a larger study of the effect of migration...

    • 8. The Impact of Labor Migration on the Well-Being and Agency of Rural Chinese Women: Cultural and Economic Contexts and the Life Course
      (pp. 243-276)
      Rachel Murphy

      Rural Chinese women at all stages of the life course are affected by the migratory process, regardless of whether they are migrants, returned migrants, or nonmigrants. Numerous young single women and some married women work in the cities, earning valuable cash income for themselves and their families. Meanwhile, girls, most married women, and especially elderly women stay in the countryside and carry out farming and domestic chores that socially and economically facilitate the migration of other family members. The movement of women in and out of nonmigrant, migrant, and returnee roles over the life course has implications for the lives...


    • 9. Migrant Women’s Stories
      (pp. 279-285)
      Tamara Jacka

      This part of the book includes translations of seven stories written by rural migrant women about their experiences of migration and work in the city. These were contributed to a story-writing competition with the theme “my life as a migrant worker” (wo de dagong shengya), organized by the journal Rural Women Knowing All (Nongjianü Baishitong). The journal is unusual, because while most Chinese media are clearly dominated by urban interests and directed primarily at an urban audience, Rural Woman Knowing All is directed at rural women. It is published monthly under the auspices of Chinese Women’s News (Zhongguo Funü Bao)...

    • 10. My Life as a Migrant Worker
      (pp. 286-308)

      The year I turned seventeen, full of dreams, I decided to go to the city to work. I wanted to make my own mark in that bustling place.

      A job advertisement brought me and two other northeastern girls, Little Wu and Little Liu, to a private restaurant. Since it was the tourist season, business was booming. We started busily selling breakfast at five o’clock every morning, by nine o’clock we began preparations for lunch, at two or three in the afternoon we finished tidying up, and then it was nearly dinnertime. In this way, we worked nonstop till ten o’clock...

    (pp. 309-316)
    (pp. 317-336)
    (pp. 337-340)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 341-356)