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New Masters, New Servants: Development, Migration, and Women Workers in China


New Masters, New Servants: Development, Migration, and Women Workers in China Cover


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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.

Product Details

Hairong, Yan
Duke University Press
Yan, Hairong
Anthropology - Cultural
Women domestics
Labor & Industrial Relations - General
Emigration & Immigration
Women's Studies - General
Rural-urban migration -- China.
Women domestics - China - Social conditions
anthropology;cultural anthropology
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
2 photographs
9.25 x 6.13 in

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Anthropology » Cultural Anthropology
History and Social Science » Asia » China » Peoples Republic 1949 to Present
History and Social Science » Ethnic Studies » Immigration
History and Social Science » Gender Studies » Womens Studies

New Masters, New Servants: Development, Migration, and Women Workers in China New Trade Paper
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Product details 328 pages Duke University Press - English 9780822343042 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
Ethnographic study of the migration of rural Chinese women to urban areas to serve as domestic laborers.
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