Factory daughters and Chinese modernity: A case from Dongguan

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This article investigates how a group of Hong-Kong Chinese managers of the offshore facilities of a US-based corporation extend their firm's base in southern China while simultaneously establishing themselves as a new kind of "Chinese" manager. These new managers set out to accomplish what their colleagues in other corporate sites have not been able to do: control the turnover rate of a female labor force, described as sexually tumultuous and hormonally problematic. To control the labor turnover rate, these managers create a strategy for keeping workers "just long enough" before they lose their dexterity and attentiveness as a result of repetitive work. Their strategy relies on a discourse of in loco parentis to justify invasive policies for monitoring workers' bodily functions and basic mobility inside and outside of the factory. To make this argument, the article combines a Marxian critique of value with post-structuralist theories of discursive subjectivity. The objective is to demonstrate how the negotiation of social identity within the capitalist firm proceeds through the representation of binary cultural and sex differences that reinforce the dichotomies of laborer and manager. However, these binaries unfold in unpredictable and uneven ways that can prove problematic for the capitalist endeavor. The material for this article comes from an ethnographic study of this company's operations in southern China and in northern Mexico.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-301
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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