Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Transitions and Conflicts: Reexamining Impacts of Migration on Young Women’s Status and Gender Practice in Rural Shanxi

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This article explores impacts of migration on young women’s status and gender practice in rural northern China. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in a village in Shanxi Province, it suggests that rural-urban migration has served partially to reconstruct the traditional gender-based roles and norms in migration families. This reconstructive force arises mainly from the changes of the patrilocal residence pattern and rural women’s acquisition of subjectivity during the course of migration. However, after migrant women return to their home villages, they usually reassume their roles as care providers and homemakers, which is vividly expressed by a phrase referring to one’s wife as ‘the person inside my home’ (wo jiali de). Meanwhile, although migrant women’s capacity and confidence have greatly increased consequent upon working out of the countryside, their participation in village governance and in the public sphere has been decreasing. Further examination suggests that the reinforcement of gender inequality and the transformation of gender relations result from the continuous interplay of local power relations, market dominance, and unchallenged patrilocal institutions. Through adopting a life course perspective, it challenges too strict a differentiation between migrant and left behind women in existing literature.

Keywords:  gender relations; migration; patriarchy; rural Chinese women



© Lichao Yang, Xiaodong Ren. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.