Technomobility at the Margins: Mobile Phones and Young Migrant Women in Beijing

Technomobility at the Margins: Mobile Phones and Young Migrant Women in Beijing

by Cara Wallis


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Technomobility at the Margins: Mobile Phones and Young Migrant Women in Beijing by Cara Wallis

Winner of the 2014 Bonnie Ritter Book Award

Winner of the 2013 James W. Carey Media Research Award

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814795262
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 01/07/2013
Series: Critical Cultural Communication Series
Pages: 277
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

Cara Wallis is Assistant Professor of Communication in the Department of Communication at Texas A&M University.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: Mobile Bodies, Mobile Technologies, and Immobile Mobility 1

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

2 "My First Big Urban Purchase": Mobile Technologies and Modern Subjectivity 63

3 Navigating Mobile Networks of Sociality and Intimacy 91

4 Picturing the Self, Imagining the World 119

5 Mobile Communication and Labor Politics 145

Conclusion: The Mobile Assemblage and Social Change in China 177

Appendix: The Fieldwork 189

Notes 195

Bibliography 229

Index 257

About the Author 264

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“An ethnographically rich and empathetic portrayal of the intricacies of life among young female migrants navigating the experience of ‘immobile mobility’. Bringing together the best of cultural studies, communication and feminist scholarship, Wallis’ theoretically sophisticated ethnography is a welcome and valuable addition to our understanding of communication, mobility and contemporary China.”-Heather A. Horst,Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and co-author of The Cell Phone

“Cara Wallis is the perfect observer to help us understand mobile phone use among young Chinese working class women, dagongmei, who live and work in the major cities far away from their rural homes. Through rigorous field work, excellent access, and a sensitive ear, she offers unique insight into how mobile phones both liberate and subjugate these young women. This supple and theoretically grounded work demands our attention.”-Rich Ling,author of The Mobile Connection: The Cell Phone's Impact on Society

"Cara Wallis has contributed a significant and unique piece of scholarship that enriches, sharpens, and humanizes our understanding of the techno-social and cultural transformations of our era and the concomitant grand narratives of China’s rise and its attainment of globalized modernity. The work is not only highly sophisticated in its theoretical conceptualization, but also extremely rich in its empirical description. The analysis is careful, nuanced and always well-contextualized. This is a superb, insightful, and self-reflexive piece of scholarship."-Yuezhi Zhao,Professor and Canada Research Chair in Political Economy of Global Communication, Simon Fraser Unive

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