Technomobility in China: Young Migrant Women and Mobile Phones

Technomobility in China: Young Migrant Women and Mobile Phones

Technomobility in China: Young Migrant Women and Mobile Phones

Technomobility in China: Young Migrant Women and Mobile Phones

Synopsis

Winner of the 2014 Bonnie Ritter Book Award

Winner of the 2013 James W. Carey Media Research Award

As unprecedented waves of young, rural women journey to cities in China, not only to work, but also to "see the world" and gain some autonomy, they regularly face significant institutional obstacles as well as deep-seated anti-rural prejudices. Based on immersive fieldwork, Cara Wallis provides an intimate portrait of the social, cultural, and economic implications of mobile communication for a group of young women engaged in unskilled service work in Beijing, where they live and work for indefinite periods of time. While simultaneously situating her work within the fields of feminist studies, technology studies, and communication theory, Wallis explores the way in which the cell phone has been integrated into the transforming social structures and practices of contemporary China, and the ways in which mobile technology enables rural young women--a population that has been traditionally marginalized and deemed as "backward" and "other"--to participate in and create culture, allowing them to perform a modern, rural-urban identity. In this theoretically rich and empirically grounded analysis, Wallis provides original insight into the co-construction of technology and subjectivity as well as the multiple forces that shape contemporary China.

Excerpt

The Harmony Market sits at a busy intersection near one of Beijing’s embassy districts, and like many indoor marketplaces erected in the city in the new millennium, it consists of several floors packed with vendors—mostly ruralto-urban migrants—selling everything from souvenirs and crafts to knockoff designer clothing, footwear, and handbags. in the spring of 2007 I met Wu Huiying and Li Xiulan, two young rural women who worked in the basement of Harmony Market selling sports shoes. Li Xiulan was sixteen and from Henan province, and she had been in Beijing for six months working for her uncle. Wu Huiying was seventeen and from Anhui province, and when she had left home at fifteen she had originally joined her older sister, who was selling jeans at another large marketplace in Beijing. She and her sister had lived and worked together for nearly three years, but her sister was expecting a baby and had recently gone home. Wu Huiying had considered . . .

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