Forced flexibility: A migrant woman's struggle for settlement

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11 Citations (Scopus)


On an early People's Congress election-day morning in November 2006, piercing cold sweeps east Harbin. Community (shequ) cadres are busily putting up an election placard and ribbons. The radio is turned up to draw the attention of residents, who hurry by on their way to work, most without pausing or turning to look at the election display, let alone stopping to cast their ballots. As the commuters round the corner and disappear, a lone figure approaches the election site. Aunt Sun is returning home after making her rounds through the neighborhood collecting pieces of old metal from a nearby railyard. The election workers do not call out to Sun, nor does she greet them. Neither Sun nor the community cadres are interested in each other. Sun is not a voter, since she is a rural migrant without an urban household registration. In her eyes, the election is only for urbanites. She later explains, "It is peasants who lay the cement when urbanites build their apartments. Urbanités do nothing other than supervise. They are no better than landlords (dizhu), are they? The only difference between them and our former [pre-1949] landlords is that they fix the time you work. What is the People's Congress for, when landlords are reappearing?".

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-76
Number of pages26
JournalChina Journal
Issue number61
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Jan

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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