Markets and Bodies: Women, Service Work, and the Making of Inequality in China

Markets and Bodies: Women, Service Work, and the Making of Inequality in China

Markets and Bodies: Women, Service Work, and the Making of Inequality in China

Markets and Bodies: Women, Service Work, and the Making of Inequality in China

Synopsis

Insulated from the dust, noise, and crowds churning outside, China's luxury hotels are staging areas for the new economic and political landscape of the country. These hotels, along with other emerging service businesses, offer an important, new source of employment for millions of workers, but also bring to light levels of inequality that surpass most developed nations.

Examining how gender enables the globalization of markets and how emerging forms of service labor are changing women's social status in China, Markets and Bodies reveals the forms of social inequality produced by shifts in the economy. No longer working for the common good as defined by the socialist state, service workers are catering to the individual desires of consumers. This economic transition ultimately affords a unique opportunity to investigate the possibilities and current limits for better working conditions for the young women who are enabling the development of capitalism in China.

Excerpt

Each day, scores of international professionals traveling to Beijing disembark from cocoon-like first-class cabins of jetliners arriving from Europe, North America, and Australia. The most affluent of these professionals board limousines for the Beijing Transluxury Hotel. Groggy and disoriented after the long flight, the well-heeled itinerants are received by butlers in the genial space of the Transluxury lobby. The butlers greet the new arrivals by name and lead them to graciously appointed guest rooms designed to evoke the warmth of a residence, with overstuffed comforters and low-slung lighting, as well as linens, carpets, and upholsteries in rich hues of chestnut and hunter green. With Englishspeaking staff, familiar Western foods, and cable TV piping in American sitcoms, the BBC, CNN, and ESPN, these global professionals can imagine that they have never left home, or that they have entered a new and improved version of it, insulated from the dust, noise, and crowds churning outside. The Beijing Transluxury and hotels like it are staging areas for forays into the new economic and political landscape of China, and they re-create home for entrepreneurs, diplomats, and politicians in unfamiliar terrain.

Just over a mile away from the hotel, Limei, a waitress at the Transluxury, awakes at 5:00 a.m. in her parents’ two-room section of a ramshackle courtyard house. In the morning she uses iron tongs to place a . . .

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