Sex, City, and the Maid: Between Socialist Fantasies and Neoliberal Parables

GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, 2010, 39 (4), pp. 53 - 69
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Of the many rural migrant workers who go to Chinese cities as cheap labourers, the one who interacts most intimately with urban residents is the domestic servant. In fact, precisely because of this intimate stranger status, the figure of the maid has captured the imagination of the urban population. This fascination is evidenced by the plethora of television narratives centring on the fraught relationships between the rural migrant woman and her male employer. This paper analyses a range of television narratives from the genres of dramas and documentaries. It shows that in these narratives, sex functions as the metaphor of social inequality between two social groups. It shows that if we explore how love, romance and marriage are constructed, we may gain some insight into processes of social and ideological contestation in the domain of cultural production.
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