The Fabric of Care: Women’s Work and the Politics of Livelihood in A Chinese Mill Town


Luce/ACLS Early Career Fellowships in China Studies – Long-Term


Dept of Sociology and Dept of Global Gender & Sexuality Studies


This book project examines how the way of doing care—performing paid and unpaid reproductive labor that maintains our daily life and attends to people who are in need—has changed among Chinese workers from the socialist era to the present. Drawing on archival data, oral histories, and participatory observation in a textile mill town in central China, my research compares three generations of manufacturing workers’ experience of doing care, with a focus on the realm of childcare and
domestic labor, and explains why care work had changed from unpaid “women’s work” in the household to a core constituent of labor welfare during socialist industrialization, and then has been removed from welfare provisions in recent decades. Shifting the analytical focus from the sphere of production to that of social reproduction, this study offers a reinterpretation of Chinese socialism and highlights the indispensable role of gender in understanding political economy.