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Technomobility in China

Young Migrant Women and Mobile Phones

Cara Wallis

Publication Year: 2013

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.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. vii-vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-ix

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pp. xi-xiii

This book could not have been possible without the generosity, insights, and friendship of many people or without the support of numerous organizations, both in the United States and in China. I am thankful to the Annenberg School for Communication for generous funding while I was conducting ...

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Introduction: Mobile Bodies, Mobile Technologies, and Immobile Mobility

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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 ..

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

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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 ...

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2. “My First Big Urban Purchase”: Mobile Technologies and Modern Subjectivity

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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 ...

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3. Navigating Mobile Networks of Sociality and Intimacy

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pp. 91-118

Jia Zhangke’s 2005 film The 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 ...

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4. Picturing the Self, Imagining the World

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pp. 119-143

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 ...

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5. Mobile Communication and Labor Politics

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pp. 145-175

“I must leave. 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 ...

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Conclusion: The Mobile Assemblage and Social Change in China

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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, ...

Appendix: The Fieldwork

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pp. 189-193


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pp. 195-228


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pp. 229-255


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pp. 257-263

About the Author

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pp. 264-264

E-ISBN-13: 9780814784815
E-ISBN-10: 0814795269
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814795262
Print-ISBN-10: 0814795269

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 830022813
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Technomobility in China

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Women -- China -- Social conditions -- 21st century.
  • Women -- Social networks -- China.
  • Migration, Internal -- China -- History -- 21st century.
  • Technology and women -- China.
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