Technomobility in China

Technomobility in China: Young Migrant Women and Mobile Phones

Cara Wallis
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 277
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  • Book Info
    Technomobility in China
    Book Description:

    As unprecedented waves of young, rural women journey to cities in China, not only to work, but also to see the worldand 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8481-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Mobile Bodies, Mobile Technologies, and Immobile Mobility (pp. 1-28)

    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 rural-to-urban migrants—selling everything from souvenirs and crafts to knockoff designer clothing, footwear, and handbags.¹ 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...

  6. 1 Market Reforms, Global Linkages, and (Dis)continuity in Post-Socialist China (pp. 29-62)

    In October 2008, a graphic appeared in an online KDS forum populated mostly by Shanghai residents. Utilizing the international symbol for “prohibited,” it featured several words and abbreviations in both English and Chinese enclosed in a red circle with a red slash across it (see figure 2). In the center of the circle were the letters WDR. Above WDR a phoenix hovered over Chinese characters that read “Phoenix Man” (fenghuangnan), and inside the circle were also the phrases “New Shanghai Man” and “Western Digital Man.” For those familiar with China’s online realm, “no WDR” was easily understood as “nowaidiren,”...

  7. 2 “My First Big Urban Purchase”: Mobile Technologies and Modern Subjectivity (pp. 63-90)

    In the fall of 2006, I traveled each week to Changping, a suburb in the northwest of Beijing, to visit a group of thirty-two young women enrolled in a three-month computer course at the Practical Skills Training Center for Rural Women. The school is overseen by the Beijing Cultural Development Center for Rural Women and was designed to provide various types of training—computer literacy, hairstyling, waitressing—for rural women from poor provinces who were recruited by local Women’s Federation cadres.¹ At the time of my weekly journey to the school—via bike, subway, and bus—Beijing was in a...

  8. 3 Navigating Mobile Networks of Sociality and Intimacy (pp. 91-118)

    Jia Zhangke’s 2005 filmThe World(Shijie) revolves around the story of two young adult migrants, Tao and her boyfriend Taisheng, who are both employed at the World Park, an amusement park on the outskirts of Beijing, where superficial cosmopolitanism is embodied in scaled-down, kitschy replicas of famous tourist sites such as the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, and even the (still-standing) Twin Towers. The fake attractions draw visitors from all over China, giving them and the employees at the park a false sense of having “seen the world.” Working as a dancer in the park, Tao appears to live...

  9. 4 Picturing the Self, Imagining the World (pp. 119-144)

    One spring day I went to visit Li Yun, a friend who worked in one of the large marketplaces in Beijing. It was relatively early in the morning, and the lack of customers meant it was an ideal time for talking with Li Yun and her colleagues. On this particular day Li Yun introduced me to Zhao Ning, who had come from a small village in Henan and had been in Beijing for a couple of years. “She loves to play with her phone. You’ll like her,” Li Yun said. Zhao Ning smiled and agreed that she did indeed love...

  10. 5 Mobile Communication and Labor Politics (pp. 145-176)

    “Imustleave. I can’t take it anymore,” Zhang Yan Xia said, as she tried to hold back the tears rolling down her face. Liang Pei Juan stood silently to the side, her facial expression a mixture of anger and disbelief. Though it was mid–afternoon and they would normally have been at work, both young women were dressed in street clothes, and each carried a small, wheeled suitcase filled with all her belongings. For the previous three months they had both worked seven days a week at two large restaurants that stood adjacent to one another a few kilometers...

  11. Conclusion: The Mobile Assemblage and Social Change in China (pp. 177-188)

    Underlying this book are two profound transformations—one taking place within a country and one spanning the globe—that are indicative of the forces that constitute our current era. In China, the phenomena of globalization, urbanization, migration, and marketization have radically altered many people’s ways of being and understanding themselves in the world. At the same time, the extensive diffusion of mobile telephony worldwide has ushered in new modes of individual and collective identity, sociality, and agency. Grounded in a notion of communication as transmission and ritual, this study has offered a long-term ethnographic exploration of the cultural, social, aesthetic,...

  12. APPENDIX: THE FIELDWORK (pp. 189-194)
  13. NOTES (pp. 195-228)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 229-256)
  15. INDEX (pp. 257-263)
  16. ABOUT THE AUTHOR (pp. 264-264)


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