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Globalization, Women, and Poverty: A Transcultural Reading of Sheng Keyi’s Northern Girls

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China’s rise within a global economy has had diverse consequences for Chinese women. For the super rich and the rising middle class, it has offered opportunities for vast wealth. For the newly emergent underclass of migrant workers who have flooded to the cities, it has engendered exploitative states of vulnerability, especially for rural women. In this paper we locate our inquiry in the context of globalization and its impact on rural women’s lives as witnessed through the medium of a unique and distinctive women’s life narrative, Sheng Keyi’s Bei mei (Northern Girls). The text testifies to the underside of women’s lives within the new market economy, documenting the cruelty of global capitalism. It presents an alternative version of the history of China’s rise in the global economy and maps a trajectory of increasing inequality from a previously silenced female perspective. Sheng Keyi’s world speaks to the sordid world of women, the world of yin. It coexists with the dizzying ascent of the yang―as the powerful nation grapples with social inequality and fragmentation. In its international circulation, Northern Girls opens readers to the contradictions and ambivalent aspects of China’s economic rise and its consequences specifically for migrant women.

Affiliations: 1: Gender Studies, Napier Building, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia ; 2: Department of Asian Studies, University of Western Australia Crawley, WA 6009, Australia


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