Library Header Image
LSE Theses Online London School of Economics web site

Transforming life in China: gendered experiences of restaurant workers in Shanghai

Shen, Yang (2015) Transforming life in China: gendered experiences of restaurant workers in Shanghai. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Text - Submitted Version
Download (8MB) | Preview


Internal migration has played a major role in the transformation of post-reform China. To explore how migrants have experienced change I consider three aspects of the lives of a particular group of migrants working in a restaurant in Shanghai: work experiences, intimate relationships with partners and families, and leisure time. I aim to highlight both men and women’s experiences in order to analyse the significance of gender alongside social class and hukou status as markers of social division in China. Based on more than seven months of participant observation and interviews, mainly with migrant workers, between 2011 and 2014, my thesis aims to illuminate how this shift in location has affected their lives: how gender operated in their daily lives; how their experiences were gendered; and how agency was exercised, how subjectivity was expressed. In examining these different dimensions I consider how these migrants dealt with a range of tensions and hierarchies, such as the denigration they encountered from customers; the inconsistency between job hierarchy and gender hierarchy; how they reinterpreted filial piety; and how their income and time-constrained leisure formed part of their coping strategies in gender-differentiated ways. Primary findings are that these migrant workers experienced change in complex and contradictory ways. Some male workers in the lowest-level jobs, whose work primarily depended on physical labour, were disadvantaged in this gendered, feminised and hierarchical workplace. Their financial disadvantage made it difficult for them to find wives and to conform to the image of primary breadwinner post-marriage. However, men despite their disadvantaged position in the work place and in partner finding still exercised their male privilege in everyday gender relations and likewise the women still experienced sexual harassment. In comparison, the female migrant workers benefited in some ways by moving away from the tedium of rural lives and by becoming financially independent wage labour, but at the same time they still performed their filial obligation of financially supporting their natal families. These workers negotiated their changed circumstances in gendered ways. I argue that their subjectivities were influenced by a range of factors, including consumer culture and the patriarchal system, which was mediated through filial piety.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2015 Yang Shen
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Gender Institute
Supervisor: Perrons, Diane

Actions (login required)

Record administration - authorised staff only Record administration - authorised staff only


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics