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Made in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace [Paperback]

Pun Ngai

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Book Description

25 May 2005
As China has emerged as an industrial powerhouse over the past two decades, a new class of workers has developed: the dagongmei, or working girls. The dagongmei are women in their late teens and early twenties who move from rural areas to urban centers to work in factories. Due to 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. The young women are not coerced to work in the factories; they know about the twelve-hour shifts and the hardships of industrial labor. Yet they are still eager to leave home. In "Made in China", Pun Ngai offers 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. Ngai conducted ethnographic work at an electronics factory in southern China's Guangdong province, in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, where foreign-owned factories are proliferating. For eight months she slept in the employee dormitories and worked on the shop floor alongside the women whose lives she chronicles. Ngai illuminates the workers' perspectives and experiences, describing the lure of consumer desire and, especially, the minutiae of factory life. She looks at acts of resistance and transgression in the workplace, positing that the chronic pains - such as backaches and headaches - that many of the women experience are as indicative of resistance to oppressive working conditions as they are of defeat. Ngai suggests that a silent social revolution is underway in China and that these young migrant workers are its protagonists.

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Made in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace + Factory Girls: Voices from the Heart of Modern China
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Product details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press; Revised edition edition (25 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932643001
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932643008
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 16.1 x 1.4 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 375,718 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"Right now, anything that happens in China's economy affects all of us. Pun Ngai's book should be required reading. It is jam-packed with richly drawn and provocative insights mined from her field work as a 'factory girl' in the midst of South China's migrant workers."-- Andrew Ross, author of Low Pay, High Profile: The Global Push for Fair Labor "Made in China is a passionate, engaged ethnography. Pun Ngai provides us with a searing critique of how global capital, with the collusion of the Chinese state, is turning China into the sweatshop of the world. Her ethnography is a moving and angry description of the lives of young migrant women, who are the guts of this process. Through Pun's ethnographic eye, these women come alive as active subjects who confront the pain and trauma of the social violence inflicted on them in a complex poetics of transgression."--Lisa Rofel, author of Other Modernities: Gendered Yearnings in China after Socialism

About the Author

Pun Ngai is Assistant Professor in the Division of Social Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. She is coeditor of "Remaking Citizenship in Hong Kong: Community, Nation, and the Global City "and the founder and chair of the Chinese Working Women Network, a grassroots organization of migrant women factory workers in China.For more information regarding the Chinese Working Women Network, please click here.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Treat workers as human beings for better results 30 Oct 2006
By EthicalllyInspired - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Anyone working on CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), with NGOs, or otherwise on development issues in China and most developing countries should read this book. I only wish Pung Nai had a shorter version where she cut out all the intellectual references to supposed `great thinkers' of the past century and actually kept it to its GEMS, which are her own insights into the true life realities for women factory workers.

This book came from Pung Nais PhD as she tells us. This is unfortunate as it makes what is otherwise fantastic material hard to read and slow. But the well written sections tell us stories of individual workers odysseys to Shenzhen from far away provinces, and explain social issues in China, and factory language providing insights few other writers have provided.

To those working on improving factory conditions, there are a lot of great tips here about what Not to do. Pung Nai talks about worker slowdowns due to frustration at dogmatic authoritarian pressure to work faster, or have music turned off, etc, and of workers being less efficient and regularly fainting from working excessive overtime. Reading this book gives those of us working to encourage factory managers to give their workers more reasonable hours and wages, more force in our argument that doing so will improve productivity and quality.

Regardless, Pung Nai points out the terrible toll on peoples lives of excessive overtime, particularly the physical and psychological impacts on young women, who are not only burdened by the work pressure, but also familial pressures back home to marry and have sons. It helps us understand the value of programmes such as Nikes high school graduation programme for factory workers in Asia, to give workers a chance to gain self respect and pride in an environment in which the very essence of who they are, country girls, is looked down upon.
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read... 10 Aug 2011
By AZM - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was a good memoir to read. I found it slow at times and choppy because the author moves back and forth from past to present constantly and then the book suddenly ends. There is no sharing of her actual transition from her Amish life into her "English" life, nor any details of how she actually met her husband. The end was far too sudden. Further, the information contained in the very back of the book about Amish factsregarding naming and so forth I found interesting and I was disappointed that they were pushed to the last few pages of the book when I felt they would have been best incorporated into the memoir throughout the book in order to help the reader get a better understanding of Amish tradition. Overall, a good read though and honestly writen from the heart. I would recommend this book.
4 of 51 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Marxist retoric in disguise 16 Jun 2006
By Joseph W. Rivera - Published on
By in large, to explain this book, "Made in China" by Pun Ngai, I have to look first at several different issues: the politics behind it, the assumptions they draw upon, and the things she leaves out. First off let me go into the politics behind this book. The more and more I read this book, the more and more I hate it. I'm sorry for saying that--well, not really. Maybe Pun Ngai has good intentions by pointing out only the negatives in every instance, but I couldn't help but be reminded of some transient theme behind all of her pessimisms. If I didn't know any better, which I obviously don't, I would say that Pun Ngai was defaming China not for being against the US and world cohesion, but for being for it. By that, I mean, that this book is extremely Marxist, anti capitalist, and anti US--to stand behind this book, while still maintaining any sense of American patriotism or pride is contradictory. This response may seem to be merely a defensive stance in terms of capitalism versus Marxist communism, but I'd like to think that it's more than that. The type of thought from this book isn't rare in China, Pun Ngai is only a part of a widely criticizing faction growing within China that likes to point out all the negatives of globalization, free trade, or neo-liberalism by pointing out the exploits and the harsh conditions being subjugated upon the workers, while disregarding any and all positive benefits they receive personally as well as any benefits towards the government as a whole. In this way, it is kind of like focusing in on only one part of a government's policies, focusing in on only one company still undergoing reform in the face of a more global privatized free trade open market economy, focusing in on only the lower echeloned workers most of whom are uneducated towards global perspectives, and focusing in on only the negative aspects of their lives. It is in this way that Pun Ngai was able to write such a completely negatively slanted defamation to all logical and true global debate. When the benefits of a society's system out weigh the negatives, in order to make a Marxist argument for conflict, one has to actually dig down to the bottom of the barrel and scrape the conflicts out with a spoon. The term "spoon" I am using is a metaphor for the subtle way Pun Ngai is trying to prove her points. It was written to incite outrage and to depict a sense of rebellion or resistance, which may or may not have actually been there, just to further her own party or social group's political ideologies. However, though, in the face of actual research and more information, for lack of a better way of putting this, Pun Ngai is just digging up dirt. This book was not written to discuss whether globalization is ultimately more or less beneficial to society, it was written to persuade people in how globalization is only negative.
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