Mobile Bodies, Mobile Technologies, and Immobile Mobility
This introductory chapter briefly discusses mobility—one physical and one virtual—in the lives of young rural-to-urban migrant women in China. It provides an ethnographic exploration of the cultural, social, aesthetic, and economic dimensions of mobile phone use by female migrants working in Beijing. Although mobile in the sense of migration from their home villages, their long work hours, rare time off, and confined social world caused them to be relatively immobile in the city. This immobility however was overcome in certain ways by their use of mobile phones for navigating social networks, enjoying forms of entertainment, participating in China's burgeoning consumer culture, and constructing a “modern” self. Drawing on critical/cultural and feminist theories of subjectivity, power, and technology, the chapter theorizes mobile communication and migrant women's becoming in the city, or how social constructions of gender-, class-, age-, and place-based identities produce particular engagements with mobile technologies.
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