Yearning for zaan or home : gender, development and home in Zhuang women's narratives on migration in a Southwest Chinese village

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Yearning for zaan or home : gender, development and home in Zhuang women's narratives on migration in a Southwest Chinese village

 

Author: Xiang, Rong
Title: Yearning for zaan or home : gender, development and home in Zhuang women's narratives on migration in a Southwest Chinese village
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2007
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations.
Zhuang (Chinese people) -- Social life and customs.
Department: Dept. of Applied Social Sciences
Pages: xiii, 415 leaves ; 30 cm.
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2145867
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/1735
Abstract: This study is the first to incorporate women of varying age cohorts and life stages, both in migration and related to migration, and to study them in the context of family and the community. Based on six months' participant observation between 2002 and 2004, and oral narratives gathered from twenty-four Zhuang women of different cohorts and life courses- young single, young married, middle-aged and elderly in a Southwestern Chinese village, migrating and not migrating, I find that, contrary to dominant discourses, migration is widely practiced by the Zhuang, and this migration occurs in myriad and gendered forms. Moreover, the narratives of women unfold a wide range of meanings attached to various forms of migration, which not only go beyond the dominant explanation of an economic analysis, but unveil Zhuang women's yearnings for Zaan, or home. However, the meanings of home are far from uniform, and they vary significantly among and across women of different age cohorts. For some young single women, migration and marriage serve as one means to pursue a "home" with a secure livelihood, less work and less drudgery. To most young married women, migration encompasses a range of conflicting meanings, from meeting survival needs, to a temporary escape from multiple burdens in the family, to a sense of humiliation derived from selling labor, to disillusionment with the migrating husband. To most middle-aged women, migration implies the separation of family members and disrupts their hope for a complete family. Most elderly women perceive migration as an assault on their old age security and the continuation of the family lineage. In employing the indigenous concept of Zaan, or home, I contribute to the existing discussion on migration, gender and development while transcending the binary trap of an assumed universal knowledge that constructs rural women as either beneficiaries or victims of migration. Through Zaan, I aim to capture the gendered well being of Zhuang rural women in diverse situations with regards to migration. I argue that the debates on migration are meaningless if they are taken out of the context in which women live and do not consider the micro-politics of everyday life through which women negotiate their marginal status in the family, the village, and the wider society. The micro politics of Zhuang rural women lie in their individually negotiating the process of migration, in handling various abuses and in their survival strategies for maneuvering through a complex web of power and domination. Through these negotiations, strategies and maneuvers, Zhuang women create their own space for work and survival, and search for a "home" that makes sense to them.

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