‘’We are the Floating Ones, you know.’’ Male Migrant Workers and Family Transformation in China

University essay from Lunds universitet/Centrum för öst- och sydöstasienstudier

Abstract: This thesis explores whether and how rural-to-urban migration alters the Chinese migrant family in the case of divided rural households of 10 male migrant workers. The study relied on in-depth semi-structured interviews with married men, who are fathers, husbands and sons, and who are currently working on construction sites in Beijing. Drawing on Lusher & Robins’(2009) theory of masculinity, this thesis found that male migrant workers reposition themselves in the family (personal), mobilise alternative resources (interpersonal) and other discourses of manhood (cultural) due to their low status in society, and the separation from their left-behind family members. Men in this research reconstruct a form of manhood in which a man’s success is measured by his efforts to take care of the family and sustain family harmony. To achieve this and to compensate emotional turmoil stemming from long-term spatial separation, these men alter their family practices by making compromises on their masculinity. These compromises include adopting a more permissive attitude as fathers (1); selective acceptance in task negotiations as husbands (2); and, increased obedience as sons (3) The thesis, however, concludes that patriarchal elements are still apparent in gender relations within marriages, which remains male dominant.

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