Living in Transition: How Returned Women Migrant Workers Re-Incorporate Themselves into Rural Origins in China

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: 313+314
Oral Presentation
Juan PENG , The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
China’s internal labor migration has attracted worldwide attention during the last three decades. While studies on rural-urban migration and its implications for China’s development proliferated, the reverse flow of these migrant workers and their lives in rural villages or townships upon their return have been largely ignored. In China, many women migrant workers have chosen to return to their rural villages upon their marriage and pregnancy. This paper explores the meaning of city working experience for migrant women and the role of women play both in decision-making of return migration and in establishing their new lives in the changed rural context after staying in cities for an extended period of years. It challenges the stereotypical images of Chinese migrant women who are always depicted as passive recipients of the structural constraints such as the patriarchy system, capitalist market and state policies. Rather than severing their connections with rurality and upholding the modernity they gained from urban experiences, many of them are actively trying in their own ways to reconcile their liminal identity by working on “ruralizing” some “modern” values while others are “modernizing” the “rural” values. Either way they are reconstructing a collective identity for themselves with meanings only they themselves would understand and appreciate. Besides, through critically employing Bourdieu’ theory of practice, it puts forward a multi-field perspective in understanding these returned women’s identity reconstruction and daily practices and highlights the importance of localization of western theory in Chinese context.