In the latest issue of positions: asia critique, “Intimate Industries: Restructuring (Im)Material Labor in Asia,” contributors aim to put people as embodied subjects back into narratives in economic change. They provide a corrective to the disembodied research approaches that remain commonplace in the social sciences, acknowledging and exploring the corporeal and relational nature of labor and economic change.
Topics include affective labor in call centers; bar dancing in Mumbai; the intersections of domestic work, sex tourism, and adoption; China’s beauty economy; sexual commerce in US military camp towns; and Indian surrogate mothers. Read the introduction, made freely available.
Interested in learning more about labor in Asia? Take a look at these related books:
In Made in China, Pun Ngai illuminates the experiences of Chinese dagongmei, or working girls—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. 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.
New Masters, New Servants is an ethnography of class dynamics and the subject formation of migrant domestic workers. Based on her interviews with young women who migrated from China’s Anhui province to the city of Beijing to engage in domestic service for middle-class families, as well as interviews with employers, job placement agencies, and government officials, Yan Hairong explores what these migrant workers mean to the families that hire them, to urban economies, to rural provinces such as Anhui, and to the Chinese state. Above all, Yan focuses on the domestic workers’ self-conceptions, desires, and struggles.
Since the late 1990s, Asian nations have increasingly encouraged, facilitated, or demanded the return of emigrants. In Return: Nationalizing Transnational Mobility in Asia, distinguished scholars from countries around the world explore the changing relations between nation-states and transnational mobility. Taking into account illegally trafficked migrants, deportees, temporary laborers on short-term contracts, and highly skilled émigrés, the contributors argue that the figure of the returnee energizes and redefines nationalism in an era of increasingly fluid and indeterminate national sovereignty.