Made in China
Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace
ISBN : 978-193-2643-18-3
For sale in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand only
Also available in Paperback HK$225.00
As China has evolved into an industrial powerhouse over the past two decades, a new class of workers has developed: the dagongmei, or working girls. The dagongmei are women in their late teens and early twenties who move from rural areas to urban centers to work in factories. Because of state laws dictating that those born in the countryside cannot permanently leave their villages, and familial pressure for young women to marry by their late twenties, the dagongmei are transient labor. They undertake physically exhausting work in urban factories for an average of four or five years before returning home. The young women are not coerced to work in the factories; they know about the twelve-hour shifts and the hardships of industrial labor. Yet they are still eager to leave home. Made in China is a compelling look at the lives of these women, workers caught between the competing demands of global capitalism, the socialist state, and the patriarchal family.
Pun Ngai conducted ethnographic work at an electronics factory in southern China’s Guangdong province, in the Shenzhen special economic zone where foreign-owned factories are proliferating. For eight months she slept in the employee dormitories and worked on the shop floor alongside the women whose lives she chronicles. Pun illuminates the workers’ perspectives and experiences, describing the lure of consumer desire and especially the minutiae of factory life. Highlighting acts of resistance in the workplace, she suggests that a silent social revolution is underway in China and that these young migrant workers are its agents.
“Right now, anything that happens in China’s economy affects all of us. Pun Ngai’s book should be required reading. It is jam-packed with richly drawn and provocative insights mined from her field work as a ‘factory girl’ in the midst of South China’s migrant workers.” —Andrew Ross, author of Low Pay, High Profile: The Global Push for Fair Labor
“Made in China is a passionate, engaged ethnography. Pun Ngai provides us with a searing critique of how global capital, with the collusion of the Chinese state, is turning China into the sweatshop of the world. Her ethnography is a moving and angry description of the lives of young migrant women, who are the guts of this process. Through Pun’s ethnographic eye, these women come alive as active subjects who confront the pain and trauma of the social violence inflicted on them in a complex poetics of transgression.” —Lisa Rofel, author of Other Modernities: Gendered Yearnings in China after Socialism