Emotional labour in a translocal context:Rural migrant workers in China’s service sector

Shen, Yang and Hu, Yang (2022) Emotional labour in a translocal context:Rural migrant workers in China’s service sector. Social and Cultural Geography, 23 (4). pp. 521-538. ISSN 1464-9365

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The service industry is a major pillar of China’s urban economy. Rural migrant workers form the backbone workforce in China’s urban service sector. Despite much attention to the work and life of rural migrants in Chinese cities, urban employers’ regulation and rural migrants’ performance of emotional labour in the service sector remain understudied. Drawing on participant observation and in-depth interviews over eight years, we examine how urban employer and rural migrant workers relationally navigate intersecting emotional and migration regimes to contest, (re)produce and (re)configure rural migrants’ power and status in the urban space. We develop the conceptualization of ‘translocal emotional reflexivity’ to elucidate multiplicated emotional regimes and subjectivities between places of origin and arrival, as well as how emotional reflexivity is mobilized to regulate, navigate and negotiate conflictual translocal emotional subjectivities. We discuss the ‘institutionalized individualization’ of emotional labour—a process in which an employer systematically engineers a sense of emotional agency for workers to reimagine, re-appropriate and individualize their emotional performance to serve institutional aims—as a distinctive feature of how the regulation and performance of emotional labour has evolved over the past decade in China.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Social and Cultural Geography
Additional Information:
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Social and Cultural Geography on 29/05/2020, available online:  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14649365.2020.1769168
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Deposited On:
15 Apr 2020 10:30
Last Modified:
16 Sep 2023 02:08