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New Boundary Work of Rural Migrants: How It Opens Up New Potential Ways of Remaking Rural-Urban Symbolic Boundaries in China

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There are powerful symbolic boundaries in urban China that exclude rural migrants. This study identifies and analyzes the new boundary work that aims at remaking these rural-urban boundaries. Based on data on previous cohorts of rural migrants in China and elsewhere, current studies argue that the predominant type of boundary work is personal assimilation. I challenge this finding by documenting how the most recent cohort of young rural migrants develop a broad variety of “normative inversion,” “reclassification,” and “universalistic blurring” types of boundary work. Although this study does not conclusively prove that the new boundary work has already successfully remade rural-urban boundaries, it illustrates that new potential paths to remaking them are opened. Data were mainly collected between 2014 and 2017 through participant observation in dance clubs in Beijing and interviews with fifty-seven dance club service workers.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

Publication date: October 2, 2019

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