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New Masters, New Servants: Migration, Development, and Women Workers in Chinaby Hairong Yan
Synopses & Reviews
On March 9, 1996, tens of thousands of readers of a daily newspaper in Chinaandrsquo;s Anhui province saw a photograph of two young women at a local long-distance bus station. Dressed in fashionable new winter coats and carrying luggage printed with Latin letters, the women were returning home from their jobs in one of Chinaandrsquo;s large cities. As the photo caption indicated, the image represented the andldquo;transformation of migrant womenandrdquo;; the womenandrsquo;s andldquo;transformationandrdquo; was signaled by their status as consumers. New Masters, New Servants is an ethnography of class dynamics and the subject formation of migrant domestic workers. Based on her interviews with young women who migrated from Chinaandrsquo;s Anhui province to the city of Beijing to engage in domestic service for middle-class families, as well as interviews with employers, job placement agencies, and government officials, Yan Hairong explores what these migrant workers mean to the families that hire them, to urban economies, to rural provinces such as Anhui, and to the Chinese state. Above all, Yan focuses on the domestic workersandrsquo; self-conceptions, desires, and struggles.
Yan analyzes how the migrant women workers are subjected to, make sense of, and reflect on a range of state and neoliberal discourses about development, modernity, consumption, self-worth, quality, and individual and collective longing and struggle. She offers keen insight into the workersandrsquo; desire and efforts to achieve suzhi (quality) through self-improvement, the way workers are treated by their employers, and representations of migrant domestic workers on television and the Internet and in newspapers and magazines. In so doing, Yan demonstrates that contestations over the meanings of migrant workers raise broad questions about the nature of wage labor, market economy, sociality, and postsocialism in contemporary China.
Ethnographic study of the migration of rural Chinese women to urban areas to serve as domestic laborers.
About the Author
Yan Hairong, an anthropologist, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Social Sciences at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Table of Contents
1. The Emaciation of the Rural: andquot;No Way Outandquot; 25
2. Mind and Body, Gender and Class 53
Part I. andquot;Intellectuals' Burdensandquot; and Domestic Labor 57
Part II. Searching for the Proper Baomu 80
Intermezzo 1. A Survey of Employers 109
3. Suzhi as a New Human Value: Neoliberal Governance of Labor Migration 111
Intermezzo 2. Urban Folklore on Neoliberalism 139
4. A Mirage of Modernity: Pas de Deux of Consumption and Production 145
5. Self-Development and the Specter of Class 187
Intermezzo 3. Diary and Song 217
6. The Economic Law and Liminal Subjects 221
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