Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Carrying Out Modernity: Migration, Work, and Masculinity in China

Zhang, Xia (2011) Carrying Out Modernity: Migration, Work, and Masculinity in China. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Primary Text

Download (1MB) | Preview


This dissertation is a historically and politically grounded ethnography of bangbang, an estimated 200,000 to 1,000,000-strong crew of male porters, who serve the transportation sector of Chongqing in southwest China. Bangbang are mostly Chinese rural migrant men who work as informal day laborers. Based on fifteen months of ethnographic field research conducted in Chongqing in 2004 and 2006-2007, my research examines the labor and gender inequalities that bangbang experience within the context of post-reform China's economic development and modernization. My dissertation examines the cultural logics, social and cultural forces, and the discursive conditions and contradictions embedded in bangbang's decisions to migrate, their occupational choices, their imagining of modernity and success, as well as their understanding of masculinity. It also documents the strategies bangbang adopt to defend their dignity and the changes that bangbang's migration brings to their social relations. I argue that in Chongqing, rural men's migrations are not just an important attempt to pursue economic advancement, but also part of their quest for decency and masculine pride. Out-migration constitutes a valuable approach for these men to elevate their reputation as responsible and capable men. However, the majority of poor rural men experience systematic and gendered violence during migration which forces them to remain exploited and socially marginalized in the urban region. I also argue that the informality of bangbang's employment is the result of China's labor market deregulation and economic restructuring. The rhetoric of "freedom" which is made popular among bangbang by the Party-state, functions as a pro-growth strategy that reorganizes the flow of knowledge, capital, labor, social relations, and the formation of worker subjectivities. Lastly, this research has found that the fragmentation of employment contributes to the lack of large-scale, public, collective protests among bangbang against the government.Overall, this dissertation contributes to anthropological studies of development, labor, migration, and post-socialism. Furthermore, it contributes to gender studies in general and to masculinity studies in particular by contributing to an understanding of Chinese working-class masculinity. This research also provides insights into gender and class conditions in post-reform China.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Zhang, Xiaxiz12@pitt.eduXIZ12
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairConstable, Nicolencgrad@pitt.eduNCGRAD
Committee MemberRawski, Evelynesrx@pitt.eduESRX
Committee MemberLukacs, Gabriellalukacs@pitt.eduLUKACS
Committee MemberAlter, Joseph Sjsalter@pitt.eduJSALTER
Committee MemberBlee, Kathleen Mkblee@pitt.eduKBLEE
Date: 1 July 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 21 March 2011
Approval Date: 1 July 2011
Submission Date: 13 April 2011
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Chongqing; Development; Gender; Labor; Modernization; Transportation Industry
Other ID:, etd-04132011-022941
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:37
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:40


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item