Made in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace
As China has evolved into 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. 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. 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. 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.
Pun 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. Pun 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. Pun suggests that a silent social revolution is underway in China and that these young migrant workers are its agents.
Treat workers as human beings for better results
By Katie Larsen "TripleBottomLine" - October 29, 2006
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... read more
By AZM - August 10, 2011
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.
Marxist retoric in disguise
By Joseph W. Rivera - June 16, 2006
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... read more
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