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Pun, Ngai (1998) Becoming Dagongmei: Body, identity and transgression in Reform China. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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My study focuses on the working lives of Chinese women in the light of China's attempt to incorporate its socialist system into the world economy in the Reform era. My cardinal concern is the formation of a new social body - dagongmei - in contemporary China. The great transformation experienced during the reform era creates significant social changes, and the lives of dagongmei are the living embodiments of such paradoxical processes and experiences. The first part of my thesis looks at how the desire of the peasant girls - the desire of moving out of rural China to the urban industrial zones - is produced to meet the demands of industrial capitalism. The second part, based on an ethnographic study of an electronic factory in Shenzhen, studies the processes of constitution of the subject - dagongmei - in the workplace. First, I look at the disciplines and techniques of the production machine deployed over the female bodies, and see how these young and rural bodies are turned into docile and productive workers. Secondly, the politics of identity and differences is analyzed, to see how the existing social relations and local cultural practices are manipulated to craft abject subjects. Thirdly, the processes of sexualizing the abject subjects in relation to cultural discourses and language politics is unfolded. The final part examines the relation of domination and resistance inside the workplace. Dream, scream and bodily pain are seen as the actual form of struggle against the enormous power of capitalist relations in Chinese society. In short, my study explores the process, the desire, the struggle of young rural girls to become dagongmei; and in the rite of their passages, unravels how these female bodies experience the politics and tension produced by a hybrid mixture of the state socialist and capitalist relations.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 14:59

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