Sexuality in diasporic space: rural-to-urban migrant women negotiating gender and marriage in contemporary China

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Feminist geographers use the term diasporic subjectivity to emphasize the relational quality of identity as it is constructed in the dynamic in-between space occupied by the migrant and traversed by norms and practices associated with the village community, migrant peers, and urban consumer society, as well as nation-states. Using ethnographic methods, I explore how young, single rural Chinese women who migrated to Beijing in the 1990s negotiate sexuality in diasporic space, within the discursive and institutional orders of state, market and family. Though migration does not fundamentally alter these structures that construct inequality around place-based identity, gender and class, it does enable rural women to shift position within them and, significantly, to imagine that further, future change is possible. Foregrounding migrant women's agency in remaking gender identity from so-called rustic peasants to modern girls as well as in choosing marital partners and conducting courtship provides an important counterweight to the primary emphasis on structure found in much of the migration literature.


  • Arianne Gaetano
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Other Social Sciences


  • gender, China, heterosexuality, ethnography, internal migration
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)629-645
JournalGender, Place and Culture
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Publication categoryResearch