Current Institutional Affiliation
Research Fellow, National Center for Institutional Diversity, University of Michigan

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2010
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, New York University (NYU)
Harmony under Construction -- The Work of Building the Chinese Century

In Reform Era China, the spectacular rise of modern cities is possible only through the strength and labor of a vast workforce from the countryside. My project explores how economic, political, and social changes have redefined the context of urban labor, and how these changes are experienced by construction workers in their daily lives. The mostly-male construction workforce is the most visible of the so-called "floating population," some 150,000,000 people living in cities, but officially registered as "rural." Because of their temporary status, they lack city benefits, many legal protections, and the means to settle permanently. Construction workers often spend eleven months of the year on the building site, returning only during Chinese New Year to reunite with their families. While their wages are low by urban standards, the wide earnings gap between rural and urban workers means that their savings can often support whole families back in villages. With "harmony" the current watchword of Chinese politics, the growing disparity between rich cities and the poor countryside is considered one of the most divisive effects of Chinese economic development, one that threatens national and political cohesion. In my research, I will explore how migrant workers experience crossing between the "two Chinas." I will examine the process of building for the 2011 Horticultural Exposition currently slated for a newly developed district just outside Xian's city center. Through observation of the full process from design to construction site to completion, this research will analyze emerging concepts of class, gender, and legal subjectivity--the social construction of urban society that is emerging alongside the physical fabrication of urban space.