Rural Origins, City Lives
Class and Place in Contemporary China
- PUBLISHED: September 2020
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies / China, Anthropology
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 224 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 1 map
- ISBN: 9780295748085
Many of the millions of workers streaming in from rural China to jobs at urban factories soon find themselves in new kinds of poverty and oppression. Yet, their individual experiences are far more nuanced than popular narratives might suggest. Rural Origins, City Lives probes long-held assumptions about migrant workers in China. Drawing on fieldwork in Nanjing, Roberta Zavoretti argues that many rural-born urban-dwellers are—contrary to state policy and media portrayals—diverse in their employment, lifestyle, and aspirations. Working and living in the cities, such workers change China’s urban landscape, becoming part of an increasingly diversified and stratified society. Zavoretti finds that—more than thirty years after the Open Door Reform—class formation, not residence status, is key to understanding inequality in contemporary China.
Authors & Contributors
Roberta Zavoretti is a lecturer of social and cultural anthropology at the University of Cologne.
Introduction: The Paradigm of Rural to Urban
Migration in Contemporary China
1. Who Is a “Peasant Worker”?
2. Speaking of Oneself
3. A Place of Encounters
4. Earning, Spending, Consuming
5. Negotiating Success
Conclusion: Making Place, Making Class
Paints a compelling, sensitive and nuanced picture of who China’s migrant workers are. . . . An enjoyable and rewarding read.- China Quarterly
Succeeds in showing that the category ‘peasant worker’ is much more heterogeneous than official and popular discourses suggest.- Anthropology of Work Review
Rural Origins, City Lives does what good ethnography should do: it brings us into the grounded, life worlds of others in a way that forces us to question our broader assumptions and the categories that those assumptions are based on. That alone makes it a worthwhile and rewarding book.- Tim Oakes, China Review International: A Journal of Reviews of Scholarly Literature in Chinese Studies
A timely, smart, and rich study of everyday practices, struggles, dreams, and aspirations of rural migrants living in the city of Nanjing. This book makes a valuable contribution to the investigation of a number of issues central to China studies.- Li Zhang, author of In Search of Paradise: Middle-Class Living in a Chinese Metropolis
A very good ethnography of migrant workers in Nanjing. It shows us the lives of several different types of workers and contrasts the lived experience of interacting with these workers to the stereotypes about them.- Andrew Kipnis, author of Governing Educational Desire: Culture, Politics, and Schooling in China