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Cara Wallis discusses her book "Technomobility in China: Young Migrant Woman and Mobile Phones"

USC Annenberg graduate and Texas A&M assistant professor Cara Wallis talks to USCI about her new book on how young female migrant workers in China use cell phones to partially define themselves and to maintain and forge links with those they care about.

March 6, 2013

Technomobility in China: Young Migrant Woman and Mobile Phones

As unprecedented waves of young, rural women journey to cities in China, not only to work, but also to “see the world”and gain some autonomy, they regularly face significant institutional obstacles as well as deep-seated anti-rural prejudices. Based on immersive fieldwork, Cara Wallis provides an intimate portrait of the social, cultural, and economic implications of mobile communication for a group of young women engaged in unskilled service work in Beijing, where they live and work for indefinite periods of time.

While simultaneously situating her work within the fields of feminist studies, technology studies, and communication theory, Wallis explores the way in which the cell phone has been integrated into the transforming social structures and practices of contemporary China, and the ways in which mobile technology enables rural young women—a population that has been traditionally marginalized and deemed as “backward” and “other”—to participate in and create culture, allowing them to perform a modern, rural-urban identity. In this theoretically rich and empirically grounded analysis,Wallis provides original insight into the co-construction of technology and subjectivity as well as the multiple forces that shape contemporary China.

Click here for more on the book from New York University Press, the publisher.

Wallis also spoke at the 10th annual China Internet Research Conference held at USC in May 2012. Click here to see her presentation.


This video is also available on the USCI YouTube Channel.

Cara Wallis studies new media technologies as these relate to myriad axes of identity, modes of sociality, and forms of individual and collective agency, particularly among marginalized youth and migrant populations. Her work is informed by critical/cultural studies, feminist theory, and theories of the social shaping of technology. She has expertise in China and conducts much of her research there. In addition to new media, she also studies popular culture in the U.S. and in China. She is currently working on a book manuscript based on her fieldwork that examined the use of new media, especially mobile phones, by young rural-to-urban migrant women working in the low-level service sector in Beijing.

Click here for the full list of book interviews.