Markets and Bodies: Women, Service Work, and the Making of Inequality in China 9780804778350

This book examines how gender enables the globalization of markets and how emerging forms of service labor are changing

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Markets and Bodies

Markets and Bodies Women, Ser vice Work, and the Making of Inequality in China

Eileen M. Otis

Stanford University Press Stanford, California

Stanford University Press Stanford, California © 2012 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system without the prior written permission of Stanford University Press. Printed in the United States of America on acid-free, archival-quality paper Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Otis, Eileen M., author. Markets and bodies : women, service work, and the making of inequality in China / Eileen M. Otis. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-8047-7648-6 (cloth : alk. paper)—ISBN 978-0-8047-7649-3 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Women service industries workers—China. 2. Women—Employment— China. 3. Women—China—Social conditions. 4. Sex role in the work environment—China. 5. Equality—China. I. Title. HD6073.S452C668 2012 331.4'81000951—dc22 2011010336 Typeset by Westchester Book Composition in Adobe Garamond Pro in 11/13.5

To Richard and Dorothy Otis, without whose love, support, and nurturance this book would not have been possible.


Acknow ledg ments


Introduction: Global Markets, Local Bodies


1 “The Customer Is God”: Women and China’s New Occupational Landscape


2 Virtual Personalism: Importing Global Luxury and Emphasized Femininity to the Beijing Transluxury Hotel


3 Virtuous Professionalism: Localizing Global Luxury at the Kunming Transluxury Hotel


4 Aspirational Urbanism: Consuming Respect in China’s Informal Ser vice Sector


5 Embodying Consumer Markets at Work


Afterword: Embodiment, the Research, and the Researcher








Acknow ledgments

An ethnographer is a student of cultural and social worlds. I am grateful to so many people who opened up their lives to me so that I might learn from them. First and foremost, I am indebted to the employees of the service workplaces I studied who patiently entertained my questions, proddings, and sundry curiosities about their experiences. These experiences form the foundation of this book, and I am thankful for the workers’ thoughtful reflections on the tumultuous changes they have undergone. Many who I interviewed pondered out loud why I would be interested in their labor as a topic for a book. Most could not fathom how their own modest worlds of employment might be compelling to the larger world. My hope is that in this book I have made the case for why these experiences matter. Without the mentorship of some of the best critical minds and warmest hearts in sociology, this book would not have come to fruition. Vicki Smith was a tireless teacher throughout my training as a sociologist at the University of California, Davis. She read numerous drafts of this book, helping me to see the analytic forest for the descriptive trees in my work. I could not have completed this project without her enthusiastic support, intellectual curiosity, incisive analyses, and, not least of all, good humor and friendship. Fred Block always challenged me to keep an eye on macroeconomic structures as I observed micro-level interactions. When I struggled with finding larger social and political meaning in these observations, it seemed he always provided the theoretical and historical insight that would propel my analysis forward. Nicole Biggart has one of the smartest ears in the business. She had the ability to listen to my endless descriptions of fieldwork and find silver threads of sociological


Ac know ledg ments

significance. Talking with her often felt like a sociological version of therapy. The late G. William Skinner, renowned China specialist, held me to his uncompromising standards of academic excellence. I am fortunate to have had a mentor who took great care in training his students to practice social science with rigor. Jan Gouldner has been a stalwart supporter and a central, caring influence in directing my trajectory as a sociologist. My work has also been nurtured by the friendship of Michael Schwartz, who never failed to bubble with enthusiasm when I shared the findings and insights from this study. His questions and suggestions helped me to distill the final comparative analysis of this book. I have shared ideas about this book project from its inception with Elizabeth Rudd, who has offered abundant advice and insight, not to mention invaluable moral support. She attentively edited the final draft of the manuscript. Maxine Craig has also influenced the development of this book with many a theoretical and pragmatic insight. Rudy Sil’s friendship, insight, and tireless commentary on all things social scientific have sustained me personally and professionally. My sincere thanks go to Yang Guo Cai, professor at Yunnan Nationalities University, who welcomed me into her home for many a meal and provided key on-the-ground introductions and advice that made this project possible. I am indebted to Jackie Armijo for giving me a bed and meals and making me a part of her family during my early fieldwork in Kunming. Both she and Peg Swain generously showed me the ropes of ethnographic research in China. What a gift to have two such able teachers in the field! And thanks to Caleb Southworth for the editing, strategizing, morale building, and timely glasses of whiskey. This book has benefited from the wisdom of many kind critics who have read and commented on chapters, including Javier Auyero, Dan Buck, Maria Charles, Catheryn Clayton, Robert Culp, Shao Dan, Deborah Davis, Kenneth Foster, Arienne Gaetano, Tom Gold, Gail Hershatter, Bill Hurst, Jerry Jacobs, Jack Katz, Michelle Ladensen, Ching Kwan Lee, Ming-cheng Lo, Susan Mann, Joya Misra, Jen Myhre, Seio Nakajima, Estee Nuewrith, Sean O’Riain, Winifred Poster, Carlos Rojas, Preston Rudy, Bindi Shah, Hsiu-Hua Shen, Xiaoling Shu, Eva Skuratovich, Mayfair Yang, and Emily Yeh. I am grateful for the opportunity to present the manuscript to Michael Kimmel’s gender seminar at SUNY Stony Brook

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and thank him and his students for their perceptive questions and discussion. Thanks to Maram Epstein for help with the finer points of translation, to Amy Braksmajer for sending me articles relevant to this research, and to Clare Yan for helping with some of the transcription. My appreciation also goes to Rebecca Rudd, who helped edit this book. I am most grateful for feedback from two reviewers recruited by Stanford University Press, who engaged thoughtfully with my book manuscript. The manuscript has been ably shepherded through the publication process by Stanford University Press editor Kate Wahl. I am quite lucky to have had the opportunity to work with such a competent, smart, and kind professional. I appreciate all of her careful suggestions and support. Let me also extend appreciation to two institutions that supported the write-up of this research: SUNY Stony Brook and the University of Oregon. The research for this book has been presented at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; the University of Oregon; the University of California, San Diego; SUNY Stony Brook; Harvard University Fairbank Center; the University of Illinois, Urbana– Champaign; the University of California, Davis; and the National University of Singapore. Thanks to the many audiences who listened, queried, and offered commentary on the work. Research and writing of this book was generously supported by the University of California, Pacific Rim Research Program, and the Harvard University Fairbank Center. My heartfelt appreciation especially goes to Roland Vilett for all of his love and support during the time that I researched and wrote this book. And thanks to Helen Vilett for finding newspaper clippings, documentaries, and books of relevance to my research interests. My parents, Richard and Dorothy Otis, provided a rich, lively, nurturing, and supportive home environment throughout my life. I am most certain that our rousing family debates about the state of the world at the dinner table with my three older brothers, Michael, Stephen, and Frank, inspired my choice of career. My mom has been a best friend and a role model in my life. My dad has always communicated a calm and loving confidence in me. I love you, Mom and Dad. Finally, thanks to Milo Koretsky for being gently by my side during the final stages of this book.

Markets and Bodies

Map of China.





300 mi

500 km


















Hong Kong







































Introduction Global Markets, Local Bodies

Each day, scores of international professionals traveling to Beijing disembark from cocoon-like first-class cabins of jetliners arriving from Europe, North America, and Australia. The most affluent of these professionals board limousines for the Beijing Transluxury Hotel.1 Groggy and disoriented after the long flight, the well-heeled itinerants are received by butlers in the genial space of the Transluxury lobby. The butlers greet the new arrivals by name and lead them to graciously appointed guest rooms designed to evoke the warmth of a residence, with overstuffed comforters and low-slung lighting, as well as linens, carpets, and upholsteries in rich hues of chestnut and hunter green. With Englishspeaking staff, familiar Western foods, and cable TV piping in American sitcoms, the BBC, CNN, and ESPN, these global professionals can imagine that they have never left home, or that they have entered a new and improved version of it, insulated from the dust, noise, and crowds churning outside. The Beijing Transluxury and hotels like it are staging areas for forays into the new economic and political landscape of China, and they re-create home for entrepreneurs, diplomats, and politicians in unfamiliar terrain. Just over a mile away from the hotel, Limei, a waitress at the Transluxury, awakes at 5:00 a.m. in her parents’ two-room section of a ramshackle courtyard house. In the morning she uses iron tongs to place a



flat, round brick of coal in the stove for heat, then gobbles down a steamed bun and mounts her bike to join the dense cluster of slow-moving cyclists that contend with crowds of cars choking Beijing’s avenues. Arriving at the bare concrete staff entrance at the back of the Transluxury Hotel, Limei greets the security guard, punches in, and heads for the locker room, where she begins an aesthetic routine central to her paid work: showering, hairstyling, manicuring her fingernails, changing into a new uniform, and, finally, applying makeup. Showered, dressed, and painted, Limei navigates a labyrinth of dull corridors, passing wall-poster injunctions to smile and improve the self. She enters double doors that deliver her from the ill-lit monochromatic employee backstage into the airy elegance of the Transluxury Café, where she serves breakfast to the hotel’s international guests. After studying a list of the hotel’s patrons and their breakfast predilections, she carefully places a double macchiato with cinnamon sprinkles, along with the Wall Street Journal, in front of one customer, a middle-aged American man wearing a charcoal gray suit. She greets him in English: “Good morning, Mr. Harrington.” Mr. Harrington returns a half smile, makes a barely audible sound of recognition, and takes up his newspaper. Limei later delivers his fresh orange juice (with a splash of grapefruit juice) and crisp Canadian bacon. She presents other guests with their preferred breakfast items; each set of preferences has been recorded in a computer database. Other guests are served fresh tomato juice with lemon and soda, Marmite with rye bread, prosciutto crudo and melon, and one of the major Western daily newspapers: the International Tribune, Der Spiegel, or the Financial Times. Again, each guest is greeted by name. Staff members tailor their ser vices for each guest at the Beijing Transluxury so that customers are treated with a certain familiarity. To produce this congenial atmosphere, management subjects Limei and her fellow workers to an intensive service-protocol training program, instructing them to adopt a middle-class feminine sensibility so they may effortlessly inhabit the world of wealth in which they labor. At the same time, Beijing Transluxury workers reproduce a kind of old-world ser vice in which servants personally tended to the particular predilections of the employers with whom they lived; however, workers at the Beijing Transluxury produce personal attention using new-world, imper-



sonal technologies. I call the set of labor practices used to produce such attentiveness “virtual personalism.” While Beijing is now a hub in the international network of global cities, China’s tourist capital, Kunming, attracts as many domestic guests for its exotic remove. Domestic travelers flock to the “City of Eternal Spring” for its clean air, mountainous terrain, and “ethnic minority” culture, which is deliberately made exotic for the tourist economy. Kunming is the capital of China’s impoverished Yunnan Province, where tourism and tobacco are the two pillars of the regional economy. Drawn to Kunming for its nationally renowned sex-tourism industry and sizzling nightlife, domestic businessmen travel from distant provinces to entertain clients at the Kunming Transluxury Hotel. By day they tour the Stone Forest to peer at haunting karst formations, or the Western Hills to stroll through the old Buddhist temple, or Kunming’s World Horti-Expo Garden to marvel at the kaleidoscope of semitropical foliage. By night they party in the karaoke lounge and sauna, employing one or two of the escorts who mill about in shimmering cocktail dresses and stiletto heels. Yundan is a cocktail waitress who caters to these guests at the Kunming Transluxury’s Panther Nightclub. Each day she dons a red miniskirt and silvery blouse in preparation for work. She is 17 and lives in a two-room, socialist-era apartment with her parents, who work at a local pharmaceutical processing plant. In contrast to the semivisible and customized ser vice that Limei provides at the Beijing Transluxury, Yundan coaxes and prods customers to buy high-priced beverages and foods in the Panther Nightclub. Like Limei, she carefully tends to her bodily aesthetic in preparation for work. But as she applies her makeup, she carefully moderates color and quantity. Her hair is simple and unadorned, and she wears a thin silver chain around her neck. By dressing and acting with professional modesty, she self-consciously distinguishes herself from the sex workers stationed throughout the hotel, whose work is illegal. In so doing, she avoids the otherwise inevitable propositioning and pawing by customers. Yundan’s use of professionalism to control customer responses reflects a set of labor practices I term “virtuous professionalism.” Lodging in venues like the Transluxury hotels is far beyond the means of the average urbanite in China. Instead of patronizing highpriced hotels and restaurants, urbanites with more modest resources



frequent the street-side cafés, restaurants, bars, and karaoke clubs that populate China’s new cityscapes. When traveling they lodge in affordable guesthouses. These venues and the ser vices provided in them would not be so widely available were it not for the low-wage labor of migrant workers like Shaolei from China’s countryside. Shaolei journeyed 650 miles from her rural village in Anhui to Beijing so that she might find paid employment to help support her family. She lives and works in Little Sichuan, a closet-sized restaurant located in a Beijing suburb. On a typical shift she wakes at 5:00 a.m. to open the restaurant’s doors at 6:00, having spent the evening sleeping on one of the dining tables. In contrast to urban-born laborers like Limei and Yundan, Shaolei cannot gain access to full-time, formal employment in international hotels. As a migrant laborer from an agricultural region, Shaolei lacks rights to “urban citizenship” (Solinger 1999b). The state permits her only a temporary right to work in the urban center, where she is unprotected by labor laws covering urban workers and excluded from work reserved for urbanites. The absence of legal protections for informal sector workers coupled with workplaces that do little to regulate customer-worker interaction creates a labor context that allows customers to exert direct control over, and often dominate, workers. Customer control is reinforced by fundamental and long-standing inequalities between rural and urban peoples. Urban customers feel deeply anxious about their position in a rapidly shifting urban status order; they readily express disdain for the migrant workers who serve them, exhibiting behavior that ranges from merely patronizing to downright caustic. In response to these customers, Shaolei tries to disguise her rural origins, dedicating much of her meager wages to the purchase of lipstick, mascara, dresses, and shoes so that she might gain the respect of urban customers. She and migrant ser vice workers like her use cosmetics and other accoutrements in abundance to counter urban stereotypes of rural people as unclean and backward. The systematic attempts to conceal their rural roots at work epitomize migrant workers’ self-initiated labor practices, which I term “aspirational urbanism.” Tragically, these efforts only accentuate their rural roots. Young women like Limei, Yundan, and Shaolei are performing labor that was virtually nonexistent in China’s socialist Mao era, when an ethic of “serving the people,” predominated. The Mao era (1949–1976)



takes its name from the man who was chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) when it claimed leadership of China, Mao Zedong. Soon after rising to power, the CCP eliminated private property and dissolved most markets for goods, ser vices, and labor. A multitiered state bureaucracy controlled the nation’s major economic and political institutions. The CCP’s leadership focused economic production on heavy industry; consumer goods and ser vices beyond basic necessities were thus in short supply. The CCP concentrated the labor of urban workers on developing an industrial base, at the same time striving to achieve a socialist ideal that would eventually provide full employment and equal benefits to all. During this time, labor was conceived of as promoting the common good of all people in a collectivist society. When China embarked upon market reforms in 1978, it was one of the most equal societies in the world with a relatively flat distribution of income and resources (Davis and Wang 2009). Even though rural and urban peoples experienced differences in standard of living, they had little contact with each other and were largely unaware of this disparity. Since then, trade in goods, ser vices, and labor has expanded at a historically unprecedented rate, fueling higher incomes for some but sharply polarizing the overall distribution of resources and opportunities. Today, China exhibits levels of inequality that surpass those of most developed nations (OECD 2010), churning up social and political tension, even as the nation’s political leadership continues to adhere, at least nominally, to a communist ethic. Sociologists are scrambling to understand China’s economic metamorphosis and especially the forms of inequality that threaten to rend the country’s social fabric. A neglected mechanism of China’s new inequality is the nascent consumer ser vice economy, which is a new source of employment for millions of workers.2 Most of these workers are young women whose parents labored in factories and on state-run farms. As China’s urban centers grow wealthier, ser vice purveyors and retailers design novel ways for their customers to display and experience wealth and status. Ser vice workers are carefully disciplined to provide these new experiences to consumers. The emergent class of ser vice worker is thus the bedrock of a new commercial culture that converts the material resources China’s new affluent consumers have at their disposal into the attention, care,



effort, and regard of workers, thereby forming the basis for new expressions of gender and class inequality. Given their role in forging a new status hierarchy, the labor experiences of these workers depart dramatically from those of their parents, who labored in the Mao era. Instead of working for the common good as defined by the socialist state, these ser vice workers cater to consumers’ individual habits, predilections, and desires. Rather than state-run factories or farms, their employers are organizations whose objective is to maximize profit. And whereas their mothers would have been penalized for overt displays of femininity in dress, the new ser vice work requires performances of femininity and deference. Today, rather than serving the people, workers like Limei, Yundan, and Shaolei are merely “serving people”—in the double sense of becoming people who serve and of providing ser vices to people; in the process they occupy a very low rung on China’s emergent status ladder. At first glance, it may seem that these workers are merely engaging in the routine and fairly banal tasks of delivering food or greeting guests. But their emergence as a labor force has profound social and economic consequences. Not only does their work form a basis for growing profit in the consumer economy; it also aids the flow of people across regional and national boundaries by providing basic food and shelter for customers in hotels and restaurants. Moreover, by supporting social spaces where economic actors meet, workers in hotels, lounges, restaurants, and karaoke bars, as well as tea and coffee shops, facilitate the development of social capital and thereby support market growth. The creation of a ser vice class has also fundamentally transformed women’s social status by segregating them into work that is low wage, low prestige, and temporary. Employers hire young (not past the age of 28), nubile women workers to ensure status consistency between their age, gender, and low-status work, ensuring that they do not pose a status threat to any potential customers (Brinton 2007). Employers then train workers to exhibit social deference. Ultimately, ser vice firms and their employees construct a public domain of interaction that is undergirded by gender and class inequalities. To investigate the formation of China’s emergent ser vice class, I immersed in three arenas of ser vice labor, each chosen to illuminate dif-



ferent positions of women ser vice workers in relation to globalizing consumer markets. I followed new ser vice protocols as they traveled from the United States to Beijing and I again tracked their movement outward into the relatively remote metropolis of Kunming. I compared how they were implemented in two formal sector workplaces and observed their virtual absence in the informal sector. I performed more than a year of participant observation and conducted 168 in-depth interviews with workers and managers in two different Chinese cities, in formal and informal ser vice sectors. The research field sites include an international five-star hotel hosting Western businessmen and diplomats in Beijing; a luxury tourist hotel in Kunming, whose guests are mostly affluent entrepreneurs from Chinese cities more economically advanced than Kunming; and the informal ser vice sector in Kunming and Beijing, where local urbanites are served by young female migrants from China’s countryside. Beijing and Kunming are 1,700 miles (about 2,700 kilometers) apart and are separated by four provinces. Beijing is an ancient national capital city and a center of Han Chinese culture, whereas Kunming is the provincial capital of Yunnan, a remote, poor, and ethnically diverse province that borders Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar. In her classic study of ser vice work, The Managed Heart (1983), Arlie Hochschild found that American employers harnessed women workers’ socialization into middle-class domesticity in the workplace. The airline flight attendants who were the focus of the study were asked to imagine the airplane cabin as their own living room so as to re-create the space of work as the quintessential site of nurturing femininity. In so doing, they performed “emotion work,” in which they altered their feelings about the cabin and the passengers to create particular emotional responses among customers. When Hochschild conducted her seminal study, the workers were middle-class, and, she argued, they strove to maintain a feminine, middle-class demeanor and sense of authenticity in the course of their labor. Yet there is no reason to assume that the relationship between femininity and ser vice work in emerging markets in China parallels the early expansion of women’s ser vice work in the United States. This is because, first, Chinese women’s femininities might be different from those of American women and, second, Chinese ser vice workers might not value authenticity in interaction.



Unlike this classic study, I did not find that service employers source emotional repertoires from workers’ prior experiences in the family. In the workplaces I investigated, women workers are not asked to import behaviors from the household into the workplace. Instead, I found that they undergo profound physical and social transformations at the hands of their ser vice employers and customers. In each arena of work I studied, workers engage different kinds of interactive labor practices. These practices are consequential to their bodies and identities. I summarize these routines as “virtual personalism,” “virtuous professionalism,” and “aspirational urbanism.” The categories reflect the modes of control distinctive to each workplace that regulate workers’ enactment of gender and class. These modes of control exert diverse effects on women workers’ bodies and present divergent status dilemmas for women in each workplace— dilemmas that are felt deeply and whose resolutions are sought in adjustments to the body. The distinctive organizational patterns of interaction, control, and response raise the question: Why does the transition to a ser vice economy within globalized markets create such variation in feminized labor practices— and femininities—in service workplaces? Laboring in the shadow of China’s spectacular economic growth, new urban ser vice workers cope with customers whose wealth and status are far beyond what they might dare hope to acquire. Yet the fact of material disparity does not determine how inequalities are displayed, choreographed, organized, enchanted, and invested with sexual allure for consumption and ultimately profit. Nor does it determine how women workers experience inequality. As I studied the varied labor practices, I observed that economic inequalities between workers and customers are manufactured into diverse experiential and interactive inequalities. By “interactive inequality” I mean asymmetry in the amount of attention, care, respect, recognition, and deference individuals receive. A similar notion of an “emotional economy” that links flows of sentiment to the material economy is developed in Hochschild’s (1983) research on ser vice labor. Instead of foregrounding emotion, the present study views emotions as encompassed by a set of interactive gestures and exchanges that are created and expressed on the body. Inequalities of interaction stem



from, and become anchored in, the body through the techniques employers use to coordinate ser vice encounters. A key question, however, remains unanswered: If material inequality is manufactured into multiple experiential, and ultimately physical, inequalities in the ser vice workplace, what drives these multiple constructions of ser vice? Explanations for diversity in the organization of ser vice work are scarce because ser vice work tends to be viewed as so many individual-level micro-interactions. This perspective makes it impossible to discern the intermediate-level institutional conditions that direct labor practices. My comparative analysis of three service-work settings in China traces distinctive interactive labor practices and the asymmetries they generate to their source in consumer markets. Firms endeavor to cultivate the patronage of specific, localized consumer markets. The stylized bodily labor of ser vice employees constitutes a resource used to appeal to customers’ class and gender expectations and aspirations. “Consumer markets” is a vexed idea, suggesting at one extreme an aggregation of individual demand and at another extreme a top-down imposition of demand on consumers by firms. I develop a dynamic definition of consumer markets as firms’ endeavors to appeal to customers’ struggles for social status. To appeal to the status expectations of consumers, service employers organize the bodies of workers as vehicles of signs, codes, and messages. I term this relationship between the workers’ bodies and consumer markets “market-embodied labor.”3 The rapid expansion of markets in China— and more generally the accelerated transition from a socialist, industrial urban economy to a ser vice economy— exposes the relationship between the formation of consumer groupings and service-labor practices in rather dramatic form, since women workers enter the ser vice sector without prior socialization in the modes of class and femininity they are expected to exhibit at work.4 Of course, employers do not introduce labor practices in a vacuum; they contend with local institutional legacies as well as workers’ own schemata of perception and expectations for interactions. Even with China’s rapid transition to a market economy, socialist institutions continue to contour the implementation of new labor practices (Duckett



1998; Solinger 1999b; Walder 1995). Workers also leave their imprint on new labor practices: as employees in each field site confront different kinds of inequality with customers, they adapt ser vice protocols promoted by managers to minimize the impact of social disparities with customers. Within these dynamics, workers seek dignity and respectability (Hodson 2001). They alter and interpret work protocols to conform to their own local beliefs about dignity. I use the notion of “embeddedness,” adopted from economic sociology, to delineate these relationships.5 By linking ser vice labor to variable consumer markets, we can appreciate the relationship between forms of labor control and the structural contexts of capital relations. Together, “market-embodied labor” and “embeddedness” point to the interactions among forms of labor control sponsored by global and local firms, the expectations of customers from diverse regional and international locations, local institutional practices, as well as workers’ bodies and personalities. These concepts therefore identify patterns of global-local interface. Existing studies of ser vices rarely consider the effects of transplanted organizational practices on the configuration of work.6 Despite the influence of Western lodging, retail, and food chains on ser vice cultures in major cities around the world, few studies of ser vice address the effects of international service models on emergent ser vice labor (but see Y. Yan 2000). Likewise, the growing body of research on the hospitality industry offers little insight into the movement of service-labor practices across national and cultural boundaries (Adler and Adler 2004; Camacho 1996; McDowell 2009; Sherman 2007; Zuberi 2006). These lacunae leave us at a loss to understand how local organizations adapt global templates and practices, and how these adaptations inform new inequalities. For example, Sherman (2007) finds that patrons of high-end luxury hotels in the United States bridge gaping inequalities by bestowing generous tips and gifts upon workers. But in China’s luxury hotels— where tipping is rarely practiced and was until recently illegal—guests make no attempt to narrow inequality. Workers, in fact, act to widen distance with their customers in order to minimize their own interactive labor, as I will show. Hence, by examining the movement of international ser vice templates across national and regional boundaries, I can



explain how and why local actors adapt existing industry practices to new institutional domains and how these adaptations mediate, structure, and ameliorate new inequalities. This book links patterns of interaction between customers, workers, and managers in three types of ser vice workplaces to structures of capital relations. I find that the formation of consumer markets is a key mechanism patterning small-scale interactions. These interactions are influenced by the thorough regulation of women workers’ bodies. The concept of market-embodied labor privileges the body as a site for labor control, profit, and interaction in ser vice work. It shifts analytic focus from ser vice as an activity that takes place in the realm of feeling, the approach adopted by most studies, to ser vice work as first and foremost physical labor that draws on bodies as animate signs of the firm’s identity. A wealth of feminist scholarship gives us purchase on how gender is formulated on the body within organizations. Along with Pierre Bourdieu’s framework that illustrates how class is formed on bodies, I draw on these studies to deepen the analysis of the ways that ser vice employers alter women’s bodies to ensure that they perform deference and femininity. Together these works illuminate how class and gender intersect in the ser vice workplace on the material of women workers’ bodies as they participate in new hierarchical relationships in the process of delivering ser vice.

Theorizing Ser vice: Bodies, Markets, and Labor Ser vice labor is defined by interaction. Ser vice workers endeavor to create, reinforce, or change the emotional and experiential states of customers on behalf of the organization that employs them. Ser vice labor has thus been conceived as the production and adjustment of feeling states that lend resonance to interaction with customers. In The Managed Heart, Hochschild argues that the definitive characteristic of ser vice labor is emotion work: the worker alters her own affective state so as to shape the emotional responses of the customer. Emotion work, therefore, is the mental adjustments ser vice workers make in order to generate genuine expressions of sentiment that, in turn, induce desired responses among their customers. It is a “kind of labor that calls for a coordination



of mind and feeling, and it sometimes draws on a source of self that we honor as deep and integral to our individuality” (Hochschild 1983: 7). According to Hochschild, in their private lives individuals incessantly alter emotions in conformance with affective standards of interaction. People try to align personal feelings to accord with “feeling rules,” which are cultural prescriptions for the feelings appropriate to express in a given context. Language is especially important in conveying rules of feeling since it provides basic schemata for coding and cognitively organizing physical sensations associated with the range of emotions. These emotions result in bodily displays— smiles, furrowed brows, grimaces, and the like. Hochschild argues that when performed for pay within an organization in the form of ser vice work, emotion work compromises the individual’s authentic sense of self. Redefining service labor as emotion work was an intervention aimed at redressing the low status of ser vice employment in the 1970s and 1980s. Despite the rapid expansion of ser vice work in the United States beginning in the 1960s, studies of labor concentrated on manufacturing, which employed mostly male workers, especially in heavy industries. Service work, especially at its lowest status levels, was feminized, associated with housework, and considered low-skilled labor; firms systematically excluded ser vice workers from job ladders that would lead into management (Kanter 1977). To counter the long-standing assumption that service work was unskilled labor, sociologists sought to reveal that the taken-for-granted activity of ser vice labor—interaction—required skills that are learned and that should be acknowledged, measured, and rewarded. In fact, it was argued that ser vice workers’ ability to fine-tune their control over emotion drew on the same competencies that actors exercise on the stage (Hochschild 1983). Selecting a case study of flight attendants to exemplify ser vice labor, Hochschild found that interactions required by their work involved an exceptional ability to reflect upon and alter feeling states that would, in turn, naturally summon appropriate physical expressions of emotion. By identifying emotion work as the core skill of ser vice labor, Hochschild rendered the intangible work of ser vice employees visible (1983). In the process, she made clearcut distinctions between ser vice and factory labor: ser vice workers use their hearts; factory workers use their hands.



But the insistence that factory and ser vice labor are entirely antithetical exaggerates differences (Lopez 2007) and in so doing largely deemphasizes the physical and material dimensions of ser vice, especially its requirements for bodily performances (see Kang 2010). Hochschild could not have witnessed dramatic alterations of ser vice workers’ bodies for presentation at work (1983). U.S. ser vice employers drew on capacities for interaction that middle-class women had already learned in the home. The flight attendants Hochschild studied were recruited by employers for their class and gender socialization. What Hochschild witnessed, then, was a conversion of class and gender repertoires from the family to the workplace. She observed the extension and adaptation of interactive competencies but not their inculcation, because women entered the occupation she studied pre-equipped with the middle-class dispositions they would exhibit at work. Since employers sourced desired dispositions from middle-class households, it was difficult for researchers to see the formation of the bodily orientations that ser vice employers required. Since then, studies of ser vice work have largely adopted a model that privileges emotions, assessing how in the course of ser vice work they are altered, affirmed, or protected (Hochschild 1983; Leidner 1993; Lopez 2007; Pierce 1995). This emphasis on mind and emotion is emblematic of a dominant approach in the social sciences, which tends to depict the body as a passive receptacle containing and acted upon by the mind (Grosz 1994). The notion of emotion work suggests that once a worker’s internal state is mentally adjusted through an act of reflection, certain physical displays will result, quite automatically. The concept of emotion work tacitly assumes that an emotional experience will render a natural and appropriate emotional display on the body. According to Hochschild, “Behind the most effective display there is a feeling that fits it, and that feeling can be managed” (1983: 34). It is not clear, however, that such agency can be attributed to the mind, as if it is separate from— and primary to—the body. For example, which physical display represents a particular sentiment appropriately within a given context is subject to cultural, historical, and organizational norms. When new display norms (such as smiling at strangers) are introduced, it is not necessarily clear which emotions will summon the display. To the extent that an individual reflects on



how to best display a feeling so as to communicate an intention in a given time and space and adapts bodily gestures accordingly, there is also physical work accomplished on the surface of the body. I argue that display adjustments are made frequently, which suggests a more complex causal relationship between experience and physical display. While bodily gestures are thought to reflect affective responses, they also induce them.7 Alterations of the body to display feelings create feelings, especially because bodily performances invite reactions from others that then form the context for a set of affective responses.8 The body is culturally coded in ways that shape the generation of, filtering of, and response to physical displays of emotion. Therefore, just as there are “feeling rules,” there are also culturally prescribed “body rules” that guide proper presentations of physicality that express specific kinds of relationships to others. These rules regulate the communication of feelings and intentions on the body and, at times, reorganize the relationships between the body and emotions.9 Body rules—the expectations for bodily presentation and displays, including displays of emotion, dominant in a give time and place— are shaped by historical and cultural norms of behavior for categories of identity including sex, age, race, ethnicity, and class. They operate through interactive assessments of the body and norms for signaling identities. Expectations for physical presentations of self derive from the categories of identity. The presentation of bodies as raced and classed, male and female, implicitly invoke standards for the social expression of emotion and therefore also create a source of feeling and emotion. For example, in twenty-first-century America, an African American man’s display of anger is likely to be received by white male audiences differently from a white woman’s display of anger. The former is at risk of being met with fear, the latter with dismissal as trivial and nonthreatening. In predominately white professional workplaces, divergent standards for emotional display regulate black and white workers, with black workers less able to freely express frustration and anger (Wingfield 2010). Gendered emotional displays are often presumed to flow from the differential capacities of sexed bodies linked ultimately to reproduction, hormonal compositions, brain structures, and so on. A woman’s anger is at greater risk of being linked to menstruation-induced irrationality. The presentation



of emotions must be managed and altered in light of stereotypes and widely held assumptions about identity. Of course, bodily displays of emotion associated culturally with men and women are actually learned and come to be experienced and seen as natural (Butler 1993; West and Zimmerman 1987). The notion of body rules is indebted to scholars who have revealed the role the body plays in shaping subjectivity, experience, and identity, especially gender identity (Turner 1996). Social and literary analyses of the body suggest that its material is much more malleable and subject to shifting cultural, historical, and social contexts than has long been assumed. Inequalities (race, class, and gender) historically have been justified by reference to differences in bodily competencies perceived as biologically ordained. By contrast, this new scholarship illustrates how bodily differences can be outcomes of inequalities (Bourdieu 2004; Butler 1993; Tilly 1999). These bodily differences help to anchor gender and class inequalities by naturalizing subordination. To fully appreciate the centrality of the body in ser vice labor, then, we must understand the body’s plasticity, the mechanisms through which the body expresses its social, organizational, and historical location as well as the agency of the body and its material capacities. Gender and class are axes of inequality that enable and constrain bodily capacities, leaving an indelible mark on the body. Gender can be defined as a system of symbolic, institutional, and interactive hierarchies based on the presumption of biological differences between men and women (Connell 1987; Scott 1988; West and Zimmerman 1987). Viewing the sociocultural construct of gender as coursing through flesh and blood poses a fundamental challenge to what had been a long-presumed separation of sex and gender, in which sex is conceived of as a biologically grounded immutable constant, while gender is taken as cultural norms and practices that drape over otherwise genetically determined biological features, playing out on their surfaces (Butler 1993; Grosz 1994). In perhaps the most famous challenge to the sex/gender binary, Butler (1993) contends that gender norms materialize as sexed bodies through rehearsed and reiterated physical performances that are socially policed and sanctioned. In a kind of feedback loop, these performances make reference to norms that are in fact sustained through



their enactment. The body is a privileged vehicle for the formation of gender inequality, and body rules, which are sometimes explicit and at other times implicit, demarcate the boundaries of masculinity and femininity. Gender, then, is generated through the material of the body; it is performed on the body and becomes part of the body. Practices that differentiate men from women (gait, handshake, comportment, dress, etc.) habituate men and women into different methods of carrying the body and using it to interact. The routine physical adjustments required by gender norms of interaction become second nature, semiconscious modes of moving through the social and physical world while at the same time creating capacities, modes of perception, and dispositions that are commonly attributed to biological sex differences. While there is striking continuity over time in the construction of gender as a binary, the characteristics that are actually dichotomized vary historically and culturally; that is, the specific attributes that define the categories “male” and “female” change over time and place, while also stratifying internally based on proximity to social norms and ideals (Connell 1987; Gal 2002; Salzinger 2003). Throughout these changes the tendency is for femininity to be figured through the body as a subordinate power relation. Analyses of how women in the United States and the United Kingdom show that women’s presumed physical fragility is constructed in opposition to a norm of masculine physical force (Bartkey 1988). For example, the inability to throw a baseball properly is one of numerous points of evidence popularly invoked to suggest girls’ inherent lack of strength. But when girls’ socialization into a norm of feminine fragility is taken into account, this putative physical weakness can be reinterpreted as a learned withholding of strength that is a feminine accomplishment (I. Young 1990). In general, women’s bodies tend to be treated and experienced as objects of attention rather than as “instruments of action” (McCaughey 1998). Practices of managing girls’ bodies reinforce this experience from an early age. For example, American parents of kindergarteners tend to dress their daughters in ornamental clothing such as bows, stockings, and skirts that require incessant attention and adjustment by teachers and girls. These accoutrements also tend to restrict movement and activ-



ity (K. Martin 1998). Such ornamentation cultivates an acute consciousness of how girls’ bodies appear to others. It makes them aware of their bodies as aesthetic vehicles for the pleasure of others. Not only are they trained to be cognizant of their appearance, but teachers unwittingly convey to girls that they should take up less space than boys and speak in softer voices (K. Martin 1998). Once adults, women actively negotiate bodily norms of femininity that emphasize the projection of an aesthetic of “petiteness.” In contrast, men cultivate their bodies with the objective of becoming larger and more muscular (Dworkin 2001; Gershick and Miller 1995). Gyms, for example, often direct women away from heavy weight lifting that will significantly increase muscle mass and encourage instead exercise routines that reduce body size, thereby reinforcing a standard that women be softer, rounder, and smaller than men (Craig and Liberti 2007; Dworkin 2001).10 When women learn physical routines conventionally associated with masculinity, they must first unlearn bodily habits associated with femininity. American women studying self-defense must overcome the physical hesitancy, deference, selflessness, and fear of hurting others they acquired earlier in life in order to execute the physical aggression required to pose a reasonable defense in the course of an attack (Hollander 2009; McCaughey 1998). Women’s bodies become vehicles for expressing nurture and care, a form of relational labor that is typically uncommodified and is relegated to wives and mothers in the domestic sphere (Lynch et al. 2009). The unequal distribution of nurturing labor, disproportionately performed by women, is naturalized by reference to their reproductive capacity and reinforced through the socialization of women’s bodies as unthreatening, soft, and compliant. They enable the ability to develop relationships and maintain intimacy with others and therefore produce nurturing capital (Lynch et al. 2009). Embodied affective labor is simultaneously constructed in the workplace and made invisible as work that adds value, to the extent that affective labor is construed as part of women’s biology. In China during the Mao era, the CCP attempted a mass unlearning of predominant norms of femininity to challenge traditional gender



dichotomies. Alterations of women’s bodies to conform to new gender norms were tied to political restructuring and orchestrated on a mass scale. Party chairman Mao Zedong declaimed against the physical constraints imposed on women in prerevolutionary society. For Mao, inequality was maintained in part through gendering of the body, as evident in his remarks denouncing women’s customary dress as a form of torture: If a woman’s head and a man’s head are actually the same, and there is no real difference between a woman’s waist and man’s, why must women have their hair piled up in those ostentatious and awkward buns? Why must they wear those messy skirts cinched tightly at the waist? I think women are regarded as criminals to start with, and tall buns and long skirts are the instruments of torture applied to them by men. There is also their facial makeup, which is the brand of a criminal; the jewelry on their hands, which constitutes shackles; and their pierced ears and bound feet, which represent corporal punishment. (Schram 1992: 353)

For Mao, standards for women’s appearance manufactured physical inequalities by imposing restrictions on female bodies. The widespread practice of binding girls’ feet so as to break the arch and produce a hooflike “lotus foot” is an especially powerful demonstration of his point.11 To liberate women from their sartorial prisons (and to render women physically fit for factory and farm labor) Mao prescribed baggy khaki pants and jackets, also worn by their male comrades (Finnane 1996; Yang 1999). This alteration of women’s self-presentation was a potent bodily technique used in an attempt to achieve gender equality and incorporate women into the labor force alongside men. New postrevolutionary gender norms were also encoded into stateproduced popular culture. Performances of struggles and battles featured in the strident Cultural Revolution operas ( yangbanxi) illustrate the female acquisition of bodily routines that had once been associated solely with masculinity. Although these operas adapted female roles from classical Russian ballet, they show how masculinity inhabits the body in countless subtle gestures: the length of a stride, the style of a gait, the compass of a shoulder or hip sway, the strength of a handshake grip. Through her analysis of these performances, Rosemary Roberts



(2008) vividly describes the new bodily possibilities offered to women in Maoist China: Women commanding troops and performing military drills with weapons . . . have a greater range of roles and physical movements than a swan princess or sugar-plum fairy. . . . When reviewing her troops, the female company commander strides along with firm authoritative steps, her strides matching exactly those of the male officer beside her, symbolically attributing her with power and status paralleling his. Her solo dance and that of the female soldier practicing grenade throwing are characterized by energetic high leaps, lunges, expansive gestures, and arabesques with fists instead of soft fingers. . . . Arm and leg movements of the women soldiers are overall much wider and much more energetic and forceful than the small, dainty selfenclosing movements of female dancers in either classical ballet or in traditional Chinese theatre.

With repetition, enactments like these become part of the body’s muscular knowledge and may eventually fade out of consciousness into secondnature determinations of action, as women learn physical dispositions long associated with masculinity. Such symbols of women’s strength and competence circulated widely in Maoist China. Even so, gender inequalities persisted and enactments of traditional femininity were quite forcibly sanctioned, as is discussed in Chapter 1. Not only does the content of gender distinctions change over time and space, but within a given time and place women and men do not express gender in the same way, as a single “female” or “male” mode of embodiment. Hierarchies of class and race combine with gender inequalities, with complex effects that manifest on the body (Trautner 2005). Just as gender is socially incorporated through practice into the body, so too are class and race. Class and race condition experiences of gender, while gender also provides the context in which class and race are experienced (Baca Zinn and Thornton Dill 1996; Collins 2000; Craig 2002; Crenshaw 1991; Nakano-Glenn 2002). And, as Skeggs emphasizes, “bodies are the physical sites where relations of class, gender, race, sexuality and age come together” (2004b: 82). Understanding ser vice labor as embodied, then, refers not only to physical modifications to conform to gender norms but also to bodily



habits and gestures that broadcast class affiliation (Trautner 2005). Class denotes an unequal distribution of resources, and individuals display class status in demeanor, elocution, posture, confidence, dress, manners, values, and actions. According to Pierre Bourdieu, class resources are diverse in type and class structures are incorporated into the body via the stratified distribution of four types of capital: economic, cultural, social, and symbolic (Bourdieu and Passeron 1990). Economic capital refers to financial resources, whereas cultural capital can be defined as knowledge and competencies rewarded by educational systems. Social capital denotes networks of association that avail individuals of network resources. Finally, symbolic capital is the ability to make the acquisition and control of resources seem natural and legitimate to others.12 This scheme emphasizes the multiplicity of resources and experiences that contribute to social inequality. The term “capital” suggests that even though there is a certain determinacy in the amount of sociocultural assets an individual possesses and their value in a field of practice, actors exercise a certain freedom in their use of these resources. Individuals deploy, save, spend, combine, and display sociocultural resources creatively and strategically (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992). Capitals become personalized. Hence, the unequal distribution of symbolic, social, cultural, and material resources may limit practical action but does not determine it. Action is not reduced to structure in Bourdieu’s framework (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992). Bodies reflect class experiences. Variable access to resources affects how people walk and talk, with whom and how they socialize, what they value, and how they define their aesthetics. Through exposure to educational experiences, socialization in the home, the consumption of specific types of goods and ser vices, and social relationships, individuals come to semiconsciously enact their class experience on their bodies. For example, in the twenty-first-century United States, “good breeding” that corresponds with the upper classes is reflected in posture, certainty of gait and movement, a genial but not-too-familiar manner, and a certain emotional distance, as well as clear, exacting, and confident elocution. To fully qualify, such characteristics should be performed with ease (Khan 2010). To the extent that the physicality of individuals from lower classes departs from this model, they express differential class resources



on their bodies. Lower classes may manifest resistance on the body, like slouching or avoiding eye contact. Speaking in a dialect or accent associated with a marginal neighborhood or region can mark someone as lower class. Bodies also reflect labor practices. In describing markers of rural peasant status, a French villager stated that the peasants “always walked with their legs bowed, as if they were knock-kneed, with their arms bent” (Bourdieu 2004: 580). To further illustrate, he mimicked the posture of a man using a scythe, linking the habits of labor and the habits of body carriage. Over time, the physical routines of labor are absorbed in the body. The specific amount, configuration, and use of capitals by a body is termed “habitus” by Bourdieu (1977, 1984). Habitus is the accumulation of capitals in the body that form competencies, perspectives, goals, and methods for acting in the world. It is an embodied response to one’s location in the social world produced as the social world one occupies leaves its impressions, stresses, challenges, and requirements on the body (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992). As such, habitus constitutes power relations: possession of capital in any of its forms— economic social, cultural, or symbolic—brings opportunities for control and domination of others. The display of capitals gains individuals entitlement to solicitude or acknowledgment from those less socially advantaged. For instance, professional style of dress, careful grooming, confident posture, and a command of standard English are prompts for social respect in many contexts. As a form of recognition, this solicitude is fundamental to the performance of class (Ray and Qayum 2009).13 In practice, gender and class combine in bodily dispositions. As gender actors, women and men gain access to different capitals and have different opportunities for using resources (McCall 1992). The ways these class and gender resources combine, with effects on bodies, cannot be understood outside of concrete organizations: families, schools, workplaces, gyms, churches, and the like (Acker 2006; Biggart 1989; Gottfried 2006; Khan 2010; Leidner 1993; P. Martin 2003; Wacquant 2006). These sites of practical activity configure gender and class dispositions.14 Foucault (1979) has made among the most provocative arguments about broad shifts in organizational power relations that affect bodies. While not explicitly addressing class and gender, Foucault links deep organizational



regulation of bodies with new modes of submission and human physical capacity building. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, armies, hospitals, prisons, asylums, schools, workshops, and poorhouses introduced new disciplinary techniques including methods of reorganizing and segmenting time, spatialized ranking systems, modes of individuation, and panoptic surveillance to enhance the efficiency of the body (Foucault 1979: 136). These techniques both optimized functional efficiency of bodies and ensured submission to the organization. Ser vice employers adopt many of the techniques identified by Foucault, as we shall see, to alter workers’ physical demeanor. But the objective is less to harness functional physical capacity to the ends of efficient production than to create and naturalize signs of status as well as to form— and enchant—relations of domination and subordination in the workplace. If we take the core activity of ser vice as the body’s ability to “embody certain symbolic images or messages” (Lan 2001: 88), then attention should be directed to firms’ creation, use, and extension of signs of gender and class to organize relationships with customers.15 Because the customer plays a direct role in the service-work process, the bodies of ser vice workers are used not only as a source of manual exertion, whose capacities are to be coordinated and optimized, but also as symbols of gender and class deployed to communicate messages to customers about the employer’s business. In this relationship, women’s bodies can be said to function as “sign-bearing capital,” a gendered and class resource that men accumulate (Skeggs 2004a).16 But as vessels of signs, women find themselves in a double bind. Embodying characteristics that reflect on men’s status places them at risk of disqualification in fields requiring authority and intellect, which offer the greatest status and monetary rewards (McCall 1992). Feminine capital in the form of beauty and charm is widely taken to be inversely correlated with masculine-typed skills (analytic, scientific, and managerial aptitudes, for example), whereas an absence of this capital raises questions about feminine normalcy.17 These values are double-edged in that they benefit women on marriage and dating markets but also objectify their bodies and render women as a kind a resource that is possessed and displayed by men. Furthermore, feminine capitals coupled as they typically



are with youth, lose their value over time (McCall 1992). In pursuit of feminine capital, women may gain access to skills and forms of bodily expression that signal their feminine class sophistication, but these alterations rarely enhance their opportunities for employability in markets outside of the consumer ser vice sector, or even in the ser vice sector, as they age. Employers do not inculcate feminine capital in a vacuum. Despite employers’ best efforts to erase signs of workers’ working class origins, women filter and adapt new class practices to a familiar class habitus. Service-labor practices are embedded in the local, practical gender and class schema that workers bring to the ser vice floor. Gender and class schema refers to the routine sense, especially the bodily sense, workers make of their location in organizational and relational contexts. By “sense” I mean the routine, practical logic that informs decision making in everyday life, which produces physical and social reflexes that seem to lack conscious reflection. The gap between an employer’s expectations for work performance and workers’ own practical bodily sense widens when the employer originates in a culturally distant setting and therefore attempts to implement new standards of interaction that are somewhat exotic to workers. From the space of this gap emerge new and somewhat unpredictable practices. As I show in subsequent chapters, efforts to reconcile old and new practices form the bases for creative alteration of service protocols. In sum, in order to analyze the reciprocal formation of consumer markets and a new class of feminized ser vice worker in China’s emerging capitalist ser vice sectors, I find it necessary to shift away from the traditional focus on emotion work in studies of ser vice labor. Examining the changing bodily enactment of gender and class within new ser vice organizations and the meanings of these enactments for workers offers insight into how global and local consumer markets are linked to new embodied femininities. As women’s bodies become part of extending ser vices to emerging consumer markets, their bodies change and their identities change. For this reason, I refer to labor as “market embodied.” The markets that are embodied are consumer markets. In the subsequent section I define consumer markets and discuss their critical role in directing the trajectory of service-floor labor practices.



Ser vice Work and Consumer Markets A central feature of ser vice work that distinguishes it from manufacturing is that the customer plays a role in the work relationship. While manufacturing labor takes place at a remove from the public, with relatively predictable and well-demarcated authority relations between managers and workers, ser vice employees face two potential masters: managers and customers (Williams and Connell 2010). In ser vice workplaces a triangle of conflict and cooperation among consumers, managers, and workers is at play, as actors forge situationally strategic two-way alliances to gain an advantage over the third party (Fuller and Smith 1991; Korczynski 2003; Korczynski et al. 2000; Leidner 1993; Lively 2002; Macdonald and Sirianni 1996; Sallaz 2002). Therefore relations of control vary depending on how each of the three actors are inserted into the labor process. A customer can adopt the role of manager who supervises the labor of workers or be subjected to control by workers and managers. Customers can also become allies who cooperate with either workers or managers (Leidner 1993). Sociological studies of ser vice tend to pay overriding attention to micro-interactions. The focus on micro-level interactions has certainly led to many critical insights that have contributed to an understanding of ser vice labor dynamics. By paying fine-tuned attention to interaction, sociologists have identified the basic patterns of ser vice labor, which is often also termed interactive labor due to the centrality of managing encounters with customers. Employers use wide-ranging strategies to control interactions among customers, managers, and workers on the ser vice floor, including recruiting patrons to supervise employees through written evaluations (Fuller and Smith 1991), scripting interactions (Leidner 1993), and formalizing tipping systems (Paules 1991). Some employers try to transform the selfhood of workers to ensure patterned responses to interactive contingencies (Leidner 1993). Others create work atmospheres that enable authentic emotional interaction based on the employee’s own sense of empathy and compassion (Lopez 2006). Yet others require extremely focused attention on customers’ personal preferences (Sherman 2007). In some cases, ser vice work is orga nized along ethnic and racial lines, with interactions producing and reinforcing



ethnic hierarchies (Kang 2010). But because of the interest in microinteractions, case studies cannot identify why certain labor practices are adopted over others. This can be corrected by appreciating that consumers’ most profound influence on labor processes derives not from their actions as individuals, but rather from their coalescence into localized institutions, as consumer markets. In order to explain the variations in patterns of service labor that I discovered in my research, I conceive of consumers as groups acting within a larger arena of competition for status, drawing on Bourdieu’s (1984) notion of struggles for distinction. I can thus move beyond the micro-level view of worker-customer interactions to trace the effects of the formation of consumer markets on the service-labor process and the transformation of workers’ bodies. Suggestive of the effects of consumer markets on labor, some carefully crafted analyses find that managers recruit workers based on the assumed race, gender, and class preferences of customers (Erickson et al. 2000; Henson and Rogers 2001; Moss and Tilly 1996; Warhurst and Nickson 2007; Williams 1995, 2006; Williams and Connell 2010). Customers are reported to experience unease when a worker’s gender or race does not fit their expectations for the type of person suited for work in a particular job category, and managers perceive customers to hold strong preferences for the race and gender of their ser vice providers and so hire accordingly (Moss and Tilly 1996; Williams 1995).18 This important insight rarely moves beyond the issue of worker recruitment, however; scholarship neglects both the effects of the formation of consumer markets on the labor process and the transformation of workers’ bodies that ensues. Employers enlist frontline workers—whose job is to interact with customers—to offer up a tone of interaction and to make aesthetic alterations to their bodies to appeal to and cultivate shared preferences among consumer segments, using the workers to create niche-appropriate ser vice atmospheres. Therefore, attempts to exert control over interactive labor are in part anchored in the firm’s strategy for institutionalizing a consumer market. I define consumer markets as groups that share struggles for dignity, recognition, and distinction with respect to class, gender, culture, nationality, and age, among other factors, and express these struggles



through choices about what, how, and when to consume goods and services (Bourdieu 1984). Recognizing ser vice consumer markets as an arena of struggle corrects two flawed extremes in current analyses of these markets, which tend to oscillate between “sovereign” and “slave.” In classic economic accounts, consumers are rational individuals who engage in market transactions to maximize their self-interest (A. Smith 1961). Accordingly, consumer markets are the aggregated transactions of these individuals, whose tastes, preferences, and desires form before they enter the market. This account of consumption is “undersocialized” (Granovetter 1985); it neglects the role of institutions (media and marketing) as well as relations of inequality, including race, class, and gender, in exerting influence on individuals that affects their consumption preferences. On the other hand, Marxist accounts view markets as totalizing structures that, through the omnipotent power of media and marketing, determine consumption behaviors (Marcuse 1964). This oversocialized account (Granovetter 1985) overestimates the power of firms to affect taste and simultaneously underestimates the role of social relations among unequally positioned status-seeking groups. Rather than a constellation of aggregate sovereignties or a slave-like subservience to the ideological power of marketing, consumer markets are more accurately defined as institutionalized struggles for social distinction among social groups (Otis 2008). This definition recognizes that in capitalist societies consumption is both a preeminent means of class reproduction and a terrain of struggle over class relationships, that is, a struggle over symbols that express, create, and validate material hierarchies. This struggle is carried out as individuals who share socioeconomic locations use similarly exclusive strategies to be distinguished from— and elevated above— others (Bourdieu 1984). Strategies of distinction, as often unintentional as intentional, use exclusive access to possessions and practices. Bourdieu writes: Because the distinctive power of cultural possessions or practices . . . tends to decline with the growth in the absolute number of people able to appropriate them, the profits of distinction would wither away if the field of production of cultural goods . . . did not endlessly supply new goods or new ways of using the same goods. (1984: 230)



Distinction struggles affect the organization of labor when firms endeavor to choreograph these struggles, promoting ser vices as exclusive and therefore status enabling in an effort to generate revenue. In so doing, firms tap into, reinforce, elaborate, and create social codes that reflect class, ethnic, gender, and generational diversity. They map out consumer markets, attempting to predict, shape, and adapt to the preferences of various congeries of consumers (Cohen 2003; Cook 2004; Davila 2001). They also deploy labor in ways that cater to and amplify these preferences. Consumer markets stratify as wealth disparities increase globally and within China.19 With widening income differences among consumers, ser vice firms offer increasingly variegated and specialized products. Conditions of employment reflect the stratification of capitals and concern for distinction among consumers.20 Concentrations of private wealth bring relatively well-paying professional service jobs, as the struggle among the upper classes for status differentiation through display of good taste creates a demand for highly trained and accomplished professionals, such as butlers, chefs, artists, and technical personnel (Frank 2008).21 Consumption imperatives of those arrayed at other points along the socioeconomic continuum (cross-cut by gender, ethnicity, and race, among other identities) generate medium- to low-end jobs. The dynamics of consumption are thus intimately intertwined with labor-market opportunities. However, strategies used to tap into consumer markets are not the sole determinant of the organization of labor. Local employment legacies and workers’ own schemata are also critical factors shaping service-labor processes.

Market-Embodied Labor, Embeddedness, and Globalization When we consider the movement of firms across space, another characteristic distinguishes manufacturing and ser vices. Manufacturers tend to enjoy greater spatial prerogative, as they can readily relocate if existing legal structures and employment practices do not allow for adequate profits (Silver 2003). By contrast, consumer ser vice firms are interested foremost in a locality’s allure to a target consumer demographic,



relying on the aesthetic and historical appeal of specific locations, be they beaches, rain forests, commercial districts, or historic cities. The need for ser vice firms to be where their customers want to be restricts opportunities to prospect the globe for the lowest-cost operating conditions (Silver 2003; Wells 2002).22 Ser vice firms generally cannot threaten to relocate if existing labor practices do not suit their needs (Wells 2002).23 The enduring and strategic relationship these firms maintain with their location often requires that they adapt labor practices to or embed them within local employment legacies as well as workers’ own practical cultural schemata. The spatial intimacy of consumption and production, in particular, anchors ser vices in local institutions. Ultimately these forms of embeddedness condition the labor practices employers use to cultivate consumer markets. As we have seen, since workers’ bodies and presentations of self are inseparable from the ser vice product, their own schemata of perception inevitably filter ser vice interactions. Labor processes are also embedded in local employment legacies that structure remuneration, benefits, and the implementation of labor laws in specific work settings. Two legacies of the Chinese workplace continue to exercise influence in the primary sector where urban workers labor. The first is the urban work unit; the second, a state administrative hierarchy of economic governance. In the informal sector, the household registration system provides a continuous supply of cheap labor. I discuss these legacies in Chapter 1. Both types of embeddedness derive from the spatial and temporal intimacy of production and consumption in ser vices. By attending to the market sources of embodied labor as well as how forms of embeddedness limit and shape these embodiments, I move toward resolving addresses a problem with existing models of labor and globalization that tend to predict either monolithic convergence of workplaces or infinite diversity. For example, New Institutionalists hold that local organizational change occurs in response to power exerted by globally dominant professional, state, and economic entities. The functional attributes of these organizations become proxies for credibility and efficiency. By adopting the practices of globally dominant institutions, local organizations gain legitimacy (DiMaggio and Powell 1983; Guthrie 1999; Meyer and Rowan 1977). New Institutionalism posits



two organizational outcomes: replication of globally dominant organizational forms or dogged persistence of local organizational patterns. It thereby tends to neglect that local actors inevitably have variable access to, understandings of, and abilities to replicate international models of organizational success. One is left to wonder, then: How are powerful organizational structures that enjoy widespread legitimacy actually implemented and adapted in practice? What kind of synthetic organizational innovations do local actors create as they combine imported and local organizational forms? Like New Institutionalists, Marxist theorists view economic globalization as a set of master processes leading to monolithic outcomes. Among them, David Harvey (1990) contends that new regimes of flexible accumulation shrink spatial and temporal divides as firms optimize conditions for profit by internationalizing production and accelerating production cycles. Termed “time-space compression,” trade, travel, and communication across spatial divides intensify, as capital hastens to produce ever-more novel products and experiences to restore levels of consumption after the drought of accumulation originating in the 1970s. For Harvey, crises of accumulation prompt the production of increasingly sensational consumption experiences in the quest for profit. This raises the question of how consumption and production are organized in particular locales and with what consequences for workers. While both New Institutionalism and Harvey’s new regime of accumulation predict single organizational outcomes (bureaucratic rationalization and time-space compression), combinatory theories of global restructuring tend to leave open an endless spectrum of possibilities for the local and global to articulate. Notions of articulation, hybridization, and syncretism that conceptualize the combinatory process of globalization remedy the monolithic outcomes problem but these heuristic frameworks stop short of identifying systematic patterns of interaction across different spaces and institutions. Despite analyses of the articulation of the “local” and the “global” structures that occur as corporations export their practices abroad (Burawoy et al. 2000; Hall 1997a, 1997b; O’Riain 2000; G. Roberts 2006; Sil 2002), studies of global restructuring do not posit a theory of institutions that capture the patterned negotiations between global and local actors.24



My analysis of ser vice work in China shows that by attending to meso-level institutions, like consumer markets, it is possible to explain the emergence of diverse labor processes as global capital meets local institutions (see also G. Roberts 2006). In particular this study finds two institutional factors particularly relevant to grasping combinatory outcomes: localized consumer markets and organizational employment legacies. By attending to firms’ attempts to appeal to their consumer markets, the employment legacies to which they conform, and the local schemata that workers bring to the ser vice floor, this comparative ethnography lends insight into the layers of adaptation of service labor, providing a rare glimpse into the formation of a globally linked class of consumer ser vice workers.

The Research In order to understand how and why new ser vice practices vary regionally and sectorally, I selected three field sites for ethnographic research. I chose service-work field sites in two Chinese cities, Beijing and Kunming. Beijing is the nation’s capital and the center of a considerably developed region. Kunming is a metropolis of China’s southwest Yungui macroregion and capital of China’s Yunnan Province, one of China’s poorest and most ethnically diverse regions. Beijing receives far more foreign direct investment and hosts a critical mass of foreign travelers. Kunming, on the other hand, is a magnet for male domestic tourists drawn by the appeal of the region’s ethnic minority populations, which add exoticism to the city’s reputation as a no-holds-barred red-light district. I conducted ethnographic research in the formal and informal service sectors of each urban center. The formal sector is comprised of large firms employing mostly urban-born workers and is tightly regulated by national labor laws. The informal sector, which is exempt from national labor laws, is made up of small businesses employing rural migrant workers. In the formal sector I conducted research at two international hotels, one in each city. These hotels are linked to the same U.S.-based transnational corporation and provide ser vices for tourists and locals alike. I conducted fifty-five semistructured interviews with workers and



managers at the Beijing hotel and sixty at the Kunming hotel. In the informal sector I interviewed fifty-three rural migrant women working in a population of small, locally run ser vice outlets (including restaurants, beauty salons, guesthouses, and karaoke bars). The methods of studying the formal sector hotels and the informal sector ser vice outlets necessarily diverged. Essentially the types of workplaces I studied in the informal sector—restaurants, beauty salons, karaoke bars, saunas, and guesthouses—were concentrated in the space of the hotels. But hotel workers were steeped in single corporate cultures, and at the hotels I was able to study varieties of ser vice work all under a single roof. My strategy for studying the informal sector workers reflects their conditions of labor: workers are distributed across multiple small ser vice outlets, working in small numbers or often alone. In order to understand this scattered and relatively isolated segment of the service-labor force, I followed them into their diverse places of work, moving from outlet to outlet, spending less time in a single location, compared to my ethnography of hotels. To interact with migrants in less formal work settings and develop a better sense of the state institutions that have been created to regulate them, I spent approximately fifty-five hours observing a twomonth beauty-skills training course enrolling rural women recruited to Kunming. The course was sponsored by the Women’s Federation, a state agency responsible for implementing government policies that concern women. I also spent about twenty hours at the Migrant Women’s Home (dagong mei zhijia) in Beijing, another Women’s Federation–sponsored organization, charged with providing a network of support for Beijing’s migrant ser vice workers. Chapter 4 brings together the collective experiences of these migrant ser vice workers. I used Mandarin to communicate with workers across all these field sites. I also asked each respondent for permission to record the interviews; four respondents declined. I assured workers and managers in each field site of complete confidentiality. Upon returning to the United States, I translated and transcribed the interviews with the help of a research assistant. I analyzed these together with my extensive field observations and with other data collected in the field.25 The original research began in 1999 and lasted thirteen months. I returned in 2005 and 2008 for follow-up research, talking to managers, friends, and a few employees



who continued to work in the hotels. I also followed up with some of the migrant women I originally interviewed, inquiring about their marriages, children, and employment trajectories. See the Afterword for a more extensive discussion of my relationships in the field and an analysis of my own “embodiment” as a fieldworker. Using comparative methodology, I analyze and explain differences in conditions of labor between sectors and regions, while also recognizing the experiences and concerns that women workers share across region and sector. Comparison further allows me to understand how and why organizational practices inform distinctive bodily sensibilities of women workers and how these become a resource for firms. Instead of taking Chinese working-class women as a homogeneous group, I consider the varied experiences of working-class women regionally and institutionally situated vis-à-vis global capitalism, while also recognizing their shared struggles.

Overview of This Book In order to better situate the study of ser vice workers in urban China, Chapter 1 provides a culturally and historically textured examination of the emergence of China’s consumer ser vice sector. The chapter explains how the formal and informal sectors emerged from Mao-era institutions and examines the specific role of regional direct foreign investment in shaping distinctive organizational labor practices. In addition, Chapter 1 analyzes shifts and continuities in occupational sex segregation from the Mao era to the contemporary period. The chapter provides historical and macroeconomic context for the analyses of the three case studies, which comprise Chapters 2 through 4. Chapter 2 is the first of the three case studies. It examines women’s work life in a five-star boutique hotel jointly owned by the Chinese government and a U.S.-based corporation. Using information technology, the Beijing Transluxury Hotel organizes highly personal, individualized ser vices for its affluent, Western, male customers in a culturally insulated environment and thereby produces “virtual personalism.” To deliver such highly personalized ser vice, managers instill workers with a deep comprehension of their clientele’s lifestyles and preferences, while



at the same time training female workers to walk delicately, to make eye contact with customers, to smile, and to adopt new hygienic regimens. Managers link a facility for hyperattentive customer ser vice to these new forms of feminine bodily competence. Despite the replication of Western norms, the hotel’s mostly imported labor practices are embedded within redistributive socialist institutional legacies that, in turn, foster amiable relations with management. Labor practices are also filtered through women workers’ notion of face-giving, which represents a hierarchical approach to ser vice. Contrary to other studies of ser vice, I find that workers seek to widen social distance with customers, rather than to narrow it. In the end, personalism is reconstructed as virtual by both management and workers who seek distance from customers. In Chapter 3, the investigation turns to the Kunming Transluxury Hotel, in China’s southwestern Yunnan Province, whose owners domesticated the global hotel chain’s operations for its affluent clientele of domestic businessmen. The owner, a provincial-level state enterprise, hired Chinese managers away from an identical hotel in another province. This allowed them to use the Transluxury organizational template without partnering with an expensive foreign firm. Due to Kunming’s intensely competitive lodging market, management lowered room rates and trained workers to market high-priced ser vices in the hotel’s restaurants, bars, and lounges. They also invited escorts to work within the hotel. As a result, formal workers found themselves fending off the advances of customers who assumed that they, too, were sex workers. Like the Beijing Transluxury, the Kunming Transluxury reproduced socialist-era work practices, but not the redistributive variant. Instead the owners used personal networks to hire and promote staff members, sowing seeds of resentment and mistrust that persistently undermined management’s legitimacy. Caught between managerial accusations of backwardness and customer assumptions that they were sex workers, employees responded by embracing and elaborating professional protocols. This dynamic resulted in a set of labor practices I term “virtuous professionalism.” Chapter 4 crosses from the formal sector of work into the informal ser vice sector, where young female migrants, originally from China’s



rural regions, labor. Informal sector workers serve China’s urban residents in restaurants, karaoke bars, beauty salons, bowling alleys, and tea shops that have sprouted up on city streets. This chapter asks: If work practices conform to consumer markets, what explains this conformance, given the absence of large firms coordinating labor practices? I find that labor is, in fact, adapted to the status concerns of the emergent urban consumer market but under very different conditions and for quite different reasons than in the first two cases. Urban public opinion overwhelmingly represents rural migrant women as uneducated and crude, stereotypes that are buttressed by the media. These images are devastating to young migrant women, who respond by attempting to disguise their rural origins, aspiring to look and act like urbanites. By internalizing the urban critique and voluntarily adapting to urban standards, these migrants engage in forms of selfdiscipline that ensure their docility. I term this set of labor practices “aspirational urbanism.” I trace these desperate efforts to fit in to the Mao-era institutional legacy of the household registration system (hukou), which bans migrants from permanently settling in the urban center. This system excludes them from citizenship rights in the urban center so that migrant workers in both Beijing and Kunming labor in environments lacking labor law enforcement and are relegated to secondary status in cities. Chapter 5 revisits explanations for the emergence of the unique sets of labor practices (virtual personalism, virtuous professionalism, and aspirational urbanism) that emerge in each case study. It then uses the case studies to reassess theories of ser vice work, which have been derived from U.S.-based research and often neglect the dynamics of globalization as they affect ser vice labor. I use the case studies to reflect the utility and limits of emotion work given its reliance on a particular (Stanislavskian) school of acting. I show that taking into account alternative methods of acting sheds light on the embodied dimension of servicelabor processes. Finally, I venture out of the immediate case studies to consider possibilities and limits for collective action in the struggle for better working conditions in the global hotel industry, Building on the important scholarship of ser vice labor in the United States, the study moves decisively beyond micro-level interactions but does not abandon



them. The work situates new bodily routines inculcated at the micro-level within connections to global capital that cultivate particular consumer market niches. It is within these consumer market niches that various femininities are created in the ser vice of profit, converting economic inequalities between workers and consumers into particular forms of service interaction via the transformation of women’s bodies.

1 “The Customer Is God” Women and China’s New Occupational Landscape

A host of interactive ser vice jobs form a new occupational landscape for working-class women in China. Within this world of labor, the traits of youth, beauty, and deferential bodily dispositions constitute working-class women’s labor market value. Characteristics of the body (age, sex, height, weight, skin tone, comportment) are a now a basis for the segmentation of labor markets and also determine the length of a woman’s occupational lifetime in ser vices. Ser vice employers routinely dismiss workers as they approach their late twenties, when their physical beauty is thought to be diminished. To describe this state of aff airs, working-class women invoke a subsistence metaphor, calling ser vice work a “spring rice bowl” (qingchunfanwan). The popular phrase marks a stark contrast between the insecurity of present-day ser vice labor (which is feminized and low-wage) and the Mao-era system of guaranteed lifetime employment, termed the “iron rice bowl.” Today’s ser vice workers are deferent and feminized. Their mantra is “The customer is god.” This chapter traces women’s historical entry into labor markets in China and follows the evolution of their labor market participation through the Mao period (1949–1976) and the early reform era (beginning in 1978) to better understand the generation of young workingclass women who have become China’s first modern ser vice workers. The chapter also provides context for the empirical case studies ahead

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by describing the socialist institutional legacies that continue to influence the new ser vice workplace by analyzing the salient features of the cities in which this research took place, as well as discussing the hotel industry in China and providing details about the hotels that are the subject of this study.

From Comrade to “Miss”: Women and China’s Shifting Worlds of Labor A landmark achievement of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was allowing women to gain socially legitimate paid employment (Stacey 1983). Before the Communist Revolution in 1949, during the late Qing (1644–1911), a Confucian ethic prevented all but the most destitute of women from working in the public sphere. Women were confined to the household to prevent contact with nonfamilial males and thereby ensure the virtue of daughters and wives (Barlow 1994; Mann 1997; R. Watson 1986). Laboring outside the home transgressed standards of virtue and was associated with poverty. Until the early twentieth century, the vast majority of women who did venture out into the public sphere of paid employment were prostitutes and entertainers, work coded as immoral and indecent. By the 1920s, Confucianism’s influence on social institutions began to erode, due in no small part to the nation’s inability to defeat British imperialism in the nineteenth century and Japanese colonialism in the twentieth century. In the 1920s, rural women poured into Shanghai to take up employment in the modern textile industry; in 1929 they made up 76 percent of the labor force in the Shanghai mills. These women continued to face public scorn for defying traditional gender boundaries and contended with violent harassment by overseers and local gangs.1 Not long after, women began to make inroads into ser vice work. Teahouses in Chengdu, Sichuan, began hiring female waitresses to replace male workers who enlisted in the armed forces to combat Japan after its invasion of China in 1937. To protect the profession from the perceived indecency associated with women’s presence in the public domain, the union of tea house workers established elaborate codes of conduct that required austerity of appearance and barred waitresses


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from wearing makeup, perming their hair, and flirting with guests (D. Wang 2008). While some women made inroads into wage employment during this time, the vast majority continued to be confined to the household, where they performed familial duties based on kin roles such as wife, daughter-in-law, daughter, and mother-in-law, as prescribed by the Confucian classical texts. Within the household’s inner quarters, wives and daughters wove textiles that were sold by male kin at local markets and thus provided an important source of revenue for their families. The proceeds from the sale of these fabrics were used to pay household taxes (Bray 1997). Confining women’s labor to the household’s interior ensured that profits remained part of the patrilineal economy. Meanwhile, men circulated in the wider public sphere, laboring in fields, selling cloth and grain at periodic markets, and serving as functionaries for extended patrilineal kin networks, as well as the state civil ser vice (Bray 1997; R. Watson 1986). However, the Confucian ideologies that prescribed women’s household seclusion were subject to unrelenting attack by urban male intellectuals who were deeply committed to China’s modernization. They assailed China’s Confucian order, blaming it for the country’s weakness in the face of Western and Japanese imperialist domination. They targeted the gender and generational tyrannies at the root of Confucianism, arguing that confining women to the household and depriving them of education fundamentally weakened the Chinese nation. For these intellectuals, gender equality itself would form a basis for accelerating China’s modernization (Barlow 2004; Otis 1999).2 One important strain of this debate reasoned that educating women would strengthen their ability to raise strong and capable sons, which would in turn form the basis for enhanced national resilience. A host of others advocated for women’s full inclusion in all social institutions, regardless of their maternal status. One principle they all agreed upon was that the nation’s survival hinged upon eliminating Confucianism’s oppression of women.3 Many of the reforms proposed by these modern intellectuals were in fact adopted by the CCP after its ascent to power in 1949. Central to the CCP program was the recruitment of women en masse into wage labor. With this policy shift, women’s worth would no longer be tied

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solely to their role in the extended kin group. The CCP propagated a new socialist gender ideology that tied women’s respectability to the ability to support national development through productive, public labor (Stacey 1983; M. Wolf 1985). Along with these policy changes, the state invented a new iconography of “iron women” and “the first female” (nujie diyi), women who were the first to work in jobs such as welding, tractor driving, streetcar driving, and the like (Chen 2003). These icons were part of an effort to encourage women to radically alter their expectations for their life course. The six posters included in the pages ahead illustrate some of the representations and display the transformations in the bodily images of working-class femininity in China since the era of Mao Zedong. The first two images depict women in heavy industry and manufacturing who have attributes associated with proletarian masculinity. Figure 1 is a poster manufactured in 1954 and depicts a female worker recruited into the elite heavy industrial labor force as a welder. The caption reads, “We are proud to participate in the industrialization of the nation.” Another poster (Figure 2) features a militant female factory worker and proclaims, “Criticize feudal and bourgeois theories of human nature.” In these posters, women’s bodies are robust and large and communicate confidence. In Figure 2 the worker displays her muscularity in a threatening posture. Although the majority of new socialist factories, rural communes, and ser vice workplaces were highly sex segregated (Shu and Bian 2002; Walder 1986), women’s work was not “feminized”; in other words, women were not expected to exhibit characteristics traditionally associated with femininity on their bodies or in interaction.4 Managers strictly controlled women’s clothing and appearance to mute overt distinctions between men and women. In so doing, managers tried to protect workingwomen from accusations of immodesty for entering the public sphere of work, easing their transition into paid labor (Rofel 1999; Yang 1999). Feminine sexual expression was also thought to embody bourgeois values that weakened the proletarian principles of the party. The elimination of public displays of sexuality allowed the party to preserve its commitment to an ascetic order and avoid accusations of corruption (Evans 1997). By inducting women into a masculinized socialist proletarian sensibility, the CCP afforded them legitimacy and dignity at work as

FIGURE 1 “We Are Proud to Participate in the Industrialization of the Nation” (1954). From the International Institute of Social History/Stefan R. Landsberger Collections, (accessed May 3, 2011).

FIGURE 2 “Thoroughly Criticize the ‘Theory of Human Nature’ of the Landlord and Capitalist Classes” (1971). From the International Institute of Social History/Stefan R. Landsberger Collections, (accessed May 3, 2011).


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socialist subjects.5 Women who worked in the small ser vice sector were subject to similar restrictions in dress and comportment. In a regime that prioritized rapid industrialization, ser vice was low-status labor. Consumption and ser vices were thought to deplete productive resources while exacerbating status distinctions that the Mao regime sought to level. Moreover, the state eliminated the need for large retail, food ser vice, or entertainment sectors by providing citizens with basic necessities and diversions through the urban workplace. A small consumer ser vice sector supplemented workplace provisions. Products purveyed by these outlets were in high demand, and there was little incentive to promote them through warm, attentive, and smiling service workers. Instead, ser vice workers acted more like gatekeepers of the meager array of consumer goods. As such they wielded a degree of power over customers (Verdery 1996). These workers were notoriously inattentive to customers. Yunxiang Yan describes staff in Mao-era China’s urban restaurants as “ill tempered workers who acted as if they were distributing food to hungry beggars” (2000: 210). One older woman I interviewed captured the spirit of ser vice work in the Mao era as she reflected nostalgically on her prereform-era employment in a state-owned retail store: “At that time we didn’t even have to smile; we could yawn out loud and tell the customer to shut up, and no one cared.” Under the Mao regime, the notion that a worker might be paid to cater to or care about customers defied the egalitarian politics and sensibilities of the period. During this time, even though expressions of femininity were minimized, party policies reproduced gender hierarchies. For example, the state formally recognized only husbands as heads of household (Stacey 1983). The party never questioned women’s responsibility for “second-shift” household labor; nor did it challenge the orthodoxy that every woman should marry and bear children (Evans 1997; Hershatter 2003). The segregation of employment by sex meant lower levels of remuneration for women workers, although all workers earned relatively low wages (Davis and Wang 2009). Moreover, the party perpetuated the norm that women should be the standard-bearers of sexual morality. In the workplace, women became the focus of concerns about sexual morality, and the regulation of their clothing was a measure to limit sexual enticement (Evans

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1997). At the height of the state’s attempt at “gender erasure,” during the Cultural Revolution, female Red Guards were frequently subject to accusations of sexual impropriety.6 By incorporating women into labor, as well as limiting the accoutrements of “bourgeois femininity,” the party remedied some elements of gender inequality but by no means eliminated it. The market reform policies of 1978 reversed the anticonsumption priorities of the Mao-era planned economy and with the reversal eliminated any vestiges of gender erasure. These reforms transformed China from a planned economy to a capitalist dynamo, in the process creating a massive urban ser vice economy. One pillar of market transition was the division of land that belonged to agricultural communes, where workers had collectively farmed. This land, previously owned by the state, was distributed based on new long-term leases to rural households. In urban areas, state-owned factories first transitioned to partially or fully privatized businesses. Unable to compete with privately invested firms, most eventually closed their gates and furloughed millions of workers (Lee 2007). As result of these reforms, urban areas metamorphosed from focal points of industrial production to centers of consumer and producer ser vices. In a report delivered to the Ninth People’s Congress in 2002, then premier Zhu Rongji declared the necessity to stoke consumer demand: “We need to eliminate all barriers to consumption by deepening reform and adjusting policies. We need to encourage people to spend more on housing, tourism, automobiles, telecommunications, cultural activities, sports and other ser vices and develop new focuses of consumer spending” (Zhu 2002). In the 2002 white paper on labor, the government declared that China’s tertiary industry, small and medium-sized enterprises and the nonpublic sectors of the economy, “shall be taken as the main channels for the enlargement of employment” (People’s Republic of China Information Office 2002: 8). The decline of urban manufacturing and the reorga nization of rural production created massive labor surpluses that pushed women workers into the consumer service sector, where they became a growing underclass, laboring in insecure, often poorly paid work (Solinger 1999b). As the factories and farming communes that employed their parents ceased production young


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working-class women have taken up ser vice labor in restaurants, retail stores, hotels, guesthouses, spas, bowling allies, karaoke bars, and clubs. They are China’s first modern consumer ser vice workers. Within this work they have undergone profound personal transformations. As the faces and voices of new ser vice establishments, women workers are required to learn new forms of bodily and interactive deference. Employers routinely subject their fresh female recruits to strict new physical requirements. Women who aspired to be hostesses for the 2008 Summer Olympics were to be of uniform height and bone structure, with “neat” buttocks, according to state requirements.7 According to a selection committee member, they should not look “sleazy” (Agence France-Presse 2007). These women endured months of training in which they learned, among other things, to smile correctly, which entailed stretching the lips only so far as to expose exactly six teeth (Reuters 2008). Some of these transformations are illustrated in the images of service workers circulating in the public sphere. Figures 3 and 4 are posters published by the government in the early reform period, 1983 and 1982, respectively. They feature female ser vice workers as the target of new campaigns to restore civility and courtesy after the tumultuous Cultural Revolution. Ser vice personnel had a reputation for gruff and rude behavior toward customers. The slogans encourage workers to be polite, civilized, and tidy, to enact socialist morality and habits, and to practice good hygiene. The lab coats they wear cast a scientific aura that suggests modernity, hygiene, and rationalization, but they also reflect a Mao-era austerity. The workers depicted are decidedly less masculinized than the two depicted in Figures 1 and 2, and the images are certainly “softer” than those shown in Figures 1 and 2, but they are not yet highly sexualized or feminized. By 1999, as a modern, globalized consumer economy took root in urban centers, employers endeavored to distinguish their products through the solicitude and sexual allure of interactive ser vice workers. And, like a Pygmalion tale on a massive scale, many ser vice employers offered intensive instruction in the arts of femininity. The once-emboldened gatekeepers to supplies of valuable goods have been replaced with young

FIGURE 3 “Cultured and Civilized, Tidy and Hygienic, Practice Social Morality” (1983). From the International Institute of Social History/Stefan R. Landsberger Collections, (accessed May 3, 2011).

“Serve Customers in a Cultured, Civilized and Enthusiastic Manner— Develop New Socialist Habits” (1982). From the International Institute of Social History/Stefan R. Landsberger Collections, /entrepreneurial-women.php (accessed May 3, 2011).


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women trained to be deferent and demure. These shifts are reflected in images that circulate in the public sphere. As we see from Figure 5, a statemanufactured poster designed in 1988, not only do ser vice workers sell new global products (in this case Pepsi), they also enact a gentle and demure, even girlish, femininity. The worker in the poster, poised in front of a high-rise crowned with a rotating restaurant, wears a pink dress, a frilly apron, a necklace, and a flower in her hair. This scene looks quite domestic. Her frilly apron and necklace betray a domestic and highly feminine sensibility. She looks to be younger than the women depicted in the Mao-era posters, and her countenance suggests the sweet innocence of a child. Figure 6 reveals the more overtly sexualized (and fetishized) dimension of the new consumer ser vice economy. In this advertisement, from a 2000 issue of a magazine published for the expatriate community in Beijing, women’s sexuality is explicitly sold as part of the ser vice experience. The sexuality of ser vice workers, the image suggests, can conform to the fantasies and fetishes of male customers. The placement of the caption “Feeling hungry?” below the waitress, along with the dog bowl at her feet, equates the (male) desire for women and the hunger for food, desires that may possibly both be satisfied at ser vice establishments. Indeed, ser vices employed a rapidly expanding proportion of urbanites as economic reforms took hold; gross domestic product (GDP) in the tertiary sector grew from 21.4 percent in 1980 to 33.2 percent in 2000, eventually accounting for almost 41 percent of the country’s GDP by 2004 (Labor Statistical Yearbook of China 2001: 5; Wu 2007). In 1952, early in the Mao era, the ser vice sector employed 9.1 percent of the urban population. After twenty-five years of Maoist rule, the percentage of the urban population employed by the tertiary sector grew by fewer than two points, to 10.7 percent. But by the year 2000, the ser vice sector employed 27.5 percent of the urban population, and by 2003, 29.3 percent (Labor Statistical Yearbook of China 2001; Statistical Yearbook of China 2005). In the cities selected for this study, Beijing and Kunming, the tertiary sector employs a majority of the population (63.3 percent and 57.8 percent, respectively) and represents a substantial proportion of each city’s GDP (59.6 percent and 48.4 percent, respectively) (Labor Statistical Yearbook of China 2001: 487 and 53).8 In order to increase demand for

FIGURE 5 “The Age of Smiling” (1988). From the International Institute of Social History/Stefan R. Landsberger Collections, /entrepreneurial-women.php (accessed May 3, 2011).

FIGURE 6 “Feeling hungry? With over 150 quality restaurants in Beijing that give you special privelages [sic], it’s not a bad option . . .” From Metrozine, February 2000. Typographical errors such as the one found in the small print on the caption of the advertisement were common in English-language publications of the time.


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consumer ser vices, in 1999 the government engaged in a program it felicitously called “holiday economics,” extending national holidays from one to three weeks so that workers might spend more earnings on travel, shopping, and dining out (Davis 2000).9 As the salaries and savings of a critical mass of urbanites grow, consumer spending follows suit (Davis 2000). This vigorous consumer spending on goods and ser vices spawns a wide range of new urban jobs. It has been well established from studies of advanced economies that women working in the service sector are ghettoized in a narrow range of dead-end occupations (Charles and Grusky 2004). This pattern is emerging in China as well. Labor statistics reveal the comparatively disproportionate number of women employed in the service sector (see Table 1). Whereas women comprised 38 percent of the total labor force in China’s urban areas in 1999, they made up 46 percent of the service sector labor force. They constituted 34 percent of employees in non–service sector industries.10 The representation of women in the service sector is slightly higher than that in manufacturing, where women accounted for 43 percent of the labor force in 2000 (Labor Statistical Yearbook of China 2001). The disaggregated categories of service work in Table 2 indicate that women comprise the largest proportion of employees in those labor-intensive service sector jobs that rely heavily on staff who provide direct, interactive customer services, such as health care, catering (restaurants), hotels, and education. The percentage of women in these subcategories of service far exceeds the overall percentage of female labor participation (see also Wichterich 2009).


Female employment percentage in urban units by sector, 1999

National total (all sectors)


Ser vice industries Health care, sporting, and social welfare Wholesale and retail trade and catering ser vices Education, culture and arts, radio, fi lm, and television Social ser vices Finance and insurance

46.0 57.0 45.7 44.0 43.5 43.2

Nonser vice industries (informal sector)


data source: Labor Statistical Yearbook of China 2000: 19– 20.

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Ser vice occupational subcategories with high proportions of female workers, 1999


Health care Food and beverage (catering) Hotels Retail trade Insurance Primary school education Tourism

58.0 57.0 55.0 51.5 47.0 46.0 45.5

data source: Labor Statistical Yearbook of China 2000: 19– 20.

These trends are reflected in the disaggregated occupational data from the 2000 China census for Beijing and Kunming, the two cities where I conducted ethnography. At entertainment venues, women comprise 70 percent of staff in Beijing and 71 percent of staff in Kunming. In other relatively low-wage ser vice occupations women also far outnumber men: they comprise 76 percent of hygienic personnel in Beijing and 71 percent in Kunming.11 These types of interactive jobs provide few opportunities for movement into management. According to the census data, women are vastly underrepresented in managerial positions: men represent 70 percent of administrators and managers in both Beijing and Kunming (China National Bureau of Statistics 2000). Furthermore, observations and data collected from my field sites are highly suggestive of an emergent gendered division of labor within ser vice: women are appointed to interactive work with guests, whereas men perform manual, technical, or managerial work in the ser vice industry. Although some men might work in the midst of customers, they tend to perform noninteractive, light manual labor. With the dramatic transformation of China’s economy, we can expect that these segregation trends will persist, especially with consumer ser vice sector work taking on greater importance. Undergirding these new forms of labor market discrimination is a discourse of sex essentialism. The Mao-era commitment to eliminating gender hierarchies is now widely viewed as an ill-conceived attempt to alter human nature, and many believe that the repression of gender divisions of labor, now taken to stem naturally from sex differences, obstructed economic development by preventing men and women from


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working in jobs suited to the strengths and limits of their bodies (see also Honig and Hershatter 1988). The Mao-era belief that men and women share basic physical and mental competencies has been replaced by the widespread presupposition that women’s biology poses fundamental limits on physical strength, intellectually ability, and competence for numerous occupations (Honig and Hershatter 1988; Rofel 1999; Yang 1999). Capturing this idea, a popular saying goes that the socialist institutions of that era allowed “the female to wax and the male to wane” (yinsheng yangshuai). In the wake of China’s industrial restructuring, women were more likely to be laid off as well as excluded from a growing number of occupations on the basis of these assumptions (Jiang 2004). As a result, young working-class women have few options but to labor in the ser vice sector. Channeling women into modern interactive ser vice work is also frequently justified by this sex essentialism. Managers mobilize biological understandings of gender differences to compel employees to work hard, to train their bodies to act in ways that conform with the feminine ideals that women should exhibit deference, care, delicacy, selflessness, and a certain fragility. These skills ultimately become measures of employees’ putative innate femininity. Norms of femininity, in turn, become a means to inculcate these capacities. Paradoxically, women workers learn to display deference while coming to understand deference as a natural competency that is the by-product of female physiology. Women workers are critical of these forms of subordination, and their linkages to the sex sector. Unlike the manual labor performed by their mothers, which was celebrated as central to building a socialist nation, ser vice work is tainted by its formalization of subordination and its close association with sex work. In the words of one worker I interviewed, “According to our way of thinking, ser vice people are inferiors.” Ser vice work is considered morally dubious work, and customers frequently treat ser vice employees as sex workers. In fact, sexuality is built into the terms that designate ser vice workers. Customers use “ fuwuyuan” (server) and “xiaojie” (miss) interchangeably to address workers. Purged during the Mao era, the term xiaojie (miss) has reemerged and is used colloquially to refer to ser vice workers.12 But xiaojie (miss) is also a com-

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mon euphemism for sex worker. As one Chinese journalist struggling to translate the term reflects, “To translate it literally as ‘Miss’ or ‘young lady’ might give rise to misunderstanding but to translate it as ‘prostitute(s)’ would be too straightforward—though that is what the euphemism really means. At last I decided that the closest translation for ‘xiaojie’ should be ‘working girl,’ a euphemism for prostitute” (Cai 2004). With the ubiquitous presence of sex work in hotels, bars, restaurants, and beauty salons, customers readily classify waitresses and hostesses as sex workers. Many employers tread a fine line between sexualizing the bodies of their female workers to appeal to male clientele and maintaining employee respectability as legitimate and legal workers. A multitude of employers hire women to showcase nubile sexuality in jobs such as greeters at the front doors and lobbies of businesses. Other employers turn a blind eye to the problem or even organize the sexual ser vices of staff members. The modest sums of money female ser vice workers earn pale in comparison to sex workers’ earnings, and ser vice workers face a perpetual temptation to cross the occupational divide into this informal and illegal work. For most, though, the stigmatization of sex work prompts them to draw sharp social and symbolic boundaries with sex workers, which reinforce the latter’s marginal status. The sexualization of service does not affect all service workers equally. Region, sector, organizational legacies, and practices all affect how service labor is orga nized and determine the practical dilemmas women workers confront. The next section explains how ser vice work in postcommunist China is embedded within variegated employment legacies, which are consequential to the experience of ser vice labor.

Employment Legacies The work unit and the residential permit system created by the Maoist state have legacies that continue to shape the local institutions in which new market-based labor practices are embedded. The CCP created the work-unit system (danwei) in the early 1950s to provide full, stable employment in China’s urban centers.13 Few private industries or firms manufactured products; production was coordinated by the state.


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Work units were essentially factories, hospitals, and universities that also orga nized workers’ lives. Upon completion of their education, urbanites were assigned lifetime work in units. For example, an upper middle school graduate might be assigned a job in a machine factory upon completion of school and would labor in this factory until retirement. The work unit provided each worker with a full complement of ser vices and social guarantees (laodong baoxian tiaoli), such as housing, schooling for children, food subsidies, and lifetime benefits, including retirement pensions and medical and health care (Dittmer and Lu 1996; Perry and Lu 1997).14 Urbanites lived and labored in their work units. The work unit was also the basic grassroots mechanism for the transmission and administration of state policy among the urban population. It was through the work unit that the party monitored and controlled urban citizens: marriage, divorce, reproduction, and travel all required the permission of authorities at the work unit. Under this system, the work role was not isolated from social activities such as raising a family and educating children. In the words of Andrew Walder, “The enterprise exercises authority not only over one highly specialized role, but over the whole person” (1986: 16). Although the work unit provisioned workers with the necessities of life, many benefits were selectively (and therefore unequally) distributed. By deciding which workers would receive what perquisites, managers promoted the normative goals of the party (Yang 1994). For example, when allocating housing, the state granted priority to married male workers and, later, to those adhering to the one-child family-planning policy. The state also sought to reward worker-activists who promoted party policy. According to Walder (1986), managers’ preferential distribution of scarce goods and ser vices to these activist workers promoted a system of clientelist ties within the work unit that ultimately guaranteed the timely fulfillment of production targets by channeling worker discontent into personalistic forms of negotiation between workers and supervisors. A state administrative hierarchy of economic governance determined the type and quantity of resources available to work units, which affected the work unit’s ability to deliver material benefits to workers. In China’s Mao era, the state centrally coordinated production and

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consumption. State planning officials decided, for example, how much energy, manufacturing materials, food, and other basic resources necessary for production each work unit would receive, including resources that would benefit workers. State bureaucracies in turn collected the production output of factories and farm collectives, redistributing these products according to their own planning priorities. A state administrative bureaucracy determined the flow of resources into and out of work units and formed a hierarchy of governance that operated at five levels of government administration. Central ministries controlled the main industrial complexes, and the next three levels were directed by provincial, municipal, and urban district and rural county governments. Small businesses run by urban subdistricts or rural townships comprised the lowest level. According to Bian, “This administrative structure forms the hierarchy in which national resources and incentives are allocated from the central command to the various levels of local governments, and favors accrue to the higher levels of government jurisdictions and their subordinate work organizations” (1994: 9). These administrative hierarchies stratified the working population; workers employed by the highest-ranking administrative bureaucracies received the best wages and benefits, which declined systematically along the pyramid of control (Bian 1994). In the post-Mao era, economic reforms that mandate greater enterprise autonomy have transformed the average work unit into a hybrid of bureaucratic and marketized practices (Solinger 1997: 96). By the mid-1990s the workplace no longer provided lifetime employment; instead workers sign multiyear employment contracts. Nor do work units provide guaranteed housing, free medical care, or education anymore (Hong and Warner 1998). Rather, firms contribute various levels of medical insurance, unemployment insurance, and occasionally housing subsidies to their employees.15 Between 1996 and 2001 the total number of state-owned enterprises declined by 40 percent (Guo and Yao 2005), but even by 2005 a majority of hotels in China continued to operate under some form of state ownership (Mak 2008). For state-owned enterprises, which sought to diversify their business holdings, building hotels was a popular strategy to survive and profit during the market transition (Guthrie 1999).


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State bureaucratic administrative hierarchies continue their relevance in the market era, reproducing inequality among workers. At the turn of the millennium, organizations ranked high in the administrative hierarchy continued to be more likely to provide better levels of workplace benefits than those that were ranked lower (Guthrie 1999). They were also more likely to form partnerships with international firms, given their access to state networks and resources (Guthrie 1999). By the time I began my research, such highly ranked firms were subject to vastly reduced direct state support, but they were nevertheless attractive candidates for joint ventures with foreign investors, who sought influential local partners capable of navigating government bureaucracies (Guthrie 1999). Firms located lower in the administrative hierarchy did not receive the generous workplace supports enjoyed by those controlled, for example, by municipalities. These firms were also less likely to have access to the influential social networks needed to facilitate joint ventures with a foreign firm. Hence, administrative hierarchies continued to be consequential for the levels of welfare support firms provided and for influencing which firms were recipients of foreign investment. The second relevant employment legacy affecting China’s labor institutions is a household registration system, which in the Mao era spatially segregated peasants and urbanites by barring migration from rural to urban areas. Today this permit system has been altered to regulate the movement of migrant workers into urban centers and functions to exclude them from urban rights and ser vices and to ban their permanent settlement in cities. As such this work legacy divides laborers into a formal sector that enjoys legal protections and some benefits and an informal sector that excludes migrant workers from protections and benefits. In its original form, the 1958 household registration system prevented population movement in the interest of urban industrialization and created a two-tiered class system. The household registration system guaranteed the bulk of urban residents state-subsidized food, health care, education, housing, and pensions, whereas rural residents, who comprised about three-quarters of China’s population, were excluded from such social benefits. The system operated in tandem with the state transfer of rural agricultural surplus to feed the urban proletariat and thus subsidized urban industrialization (Cheng and Selden 1994; Solinger 1999a; F. Wang

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2000).16 Rural residents were required to remain in agricultural production so as to feed the urban populations. By restricting peasants to the countryside, the state also controlled urban growth. In the current era, a modified household registration system maintains urban-rural class inequalities. The closure of agricultural collectives and distribution of land to individual rural households in 1978 rendered a surplus of 200 million workers, forming the impetus for mass movement to urban centers (L. Zhang 2001). Currently rural workers pour into urban centers in search of jobs, creating what is popularly known as a “floating population” (liudong renkou), estimated at 147 million people (China National Bureau of Statistics 2006). Forty percent of these migrants are women (Solinger 1999a).17 The explosive growth of urban economies constitutes an irresistible force pulling these young women into cities. Under the temporary residence provision of the household registration system, rural migrants are allowed renewable one-year residence in cities but are barred from permanent settlement. They have few rights or legal protections in the city. The adapted residence permit system allows urbanites to reap the benefits of migrants’ mobile and low-cost labor in urban ser vices. As state-owned enterprises withdrew basic welfare supports for urbanites as part of China’s transition from a planned to a market economy, low-cost migrant labor met the prodigious urban demand with low-cost reproductive services such as child care, food preparation, and the like (Fan 1996; Solinger 1999a; F. Wang 2000). Cities that in the Mao era offered only a handful of dreary state-owned restaurants and a theater or two now simmer with entertainment, leisure, and ser vice venues, thanks to the migrant workers who staff these new consumer gathering places. Ultimately, low-wage, low-cost ser vices subsidize the operating costs of both local and global firms by enhancing the standard of living for urbanites who work for these firms, maintaining a low ceiling on inflation, which keeps pressure for wage increases to a minimum (Portes and Walton 1981). At the same time, the residence permit system continues to protect the last vestiges of urban privilege by legitimating employment discrimination against migrants and barring migrant children’s enrollment in urban schools. Rural women are relegated to low-wage work in the urban ser vice sector (Fan 1996; Solinger 1999a). Meanwhile, employment


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in the formal sector in international hotels, state-owned enterprises, foreign-invested firms, and white-collar offices is reserved exclusively for permanent urban residents.18 Subject to regulation by the 1994 and 2007 labor laws, these jobs offer access to a range of social benefits, including health and unemployment insurance as well as pensions. In contrast, migrants are channeled into the lowest-wage ser vice and manufacturing jobs in the informal sector, which afford no such legal protections (Solinger 1999a).19 They perform such jobs as domestic work, food and bar ser vice, hospital care, and retail assistance. Despite their significant contributions to urban quality of life, providing low-cost ser vices that maintain a low ceiling on prices, rural migrants are the object of urbanites’ disdain and mistrust in both cities under study. The next section turns to a discussion of these two urban centers.

Comparing Metropolises: Beijing and Kunming Too often, studies of China have focused on the rapidly developing southeast coast, leaving the country’s expansive and impoverished interior out of the picture. Studies of a single region cannot accurately reflect the institutional, political, and cultural diversity of the country, however. Therefore, I designed a comparative study of ser vice work in urban centers of two distinctive regions of China. I selected Beijing and Kunming as sites for this study because they are situated in regions that represent two poles of economic development.20 Both Beijing and Kunming are metropolises of one of the nine semiautonomous macroregions in China.21 Macroregions are defined by an apex or central metropolis and its dependent system of surrounding cities and hinterlands. Hence, each macroregion defines a core-periphery structure in which the value of economic indicators declines systematically from core to hinterland.22 Kunming and Beijing share relatively high levels of urbanization, but Beijing, located within the North China macroregion, is among the two most economically advanced metropolises in the country, whereas Kunming, the central metropolis of the Yungui macroregion, claims far fewer urban ser vices and a relatively rudimentary infrastructure. It is among the two least economically advanced metropolises in the country, within the most impoverished macroregion (Skinner et al. 2000).

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Beijing is one of four municipalities in China that share the administrative status of provinces and fall under the direct control of the central government. Beijing neighbors Hebei Province and the municipality of Tianjin. Home of the Forbidden City, the seat of the emperor from the mid-Ming dynasty (1420–1644) to the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), the city’s history extends 3,000 years; it was the capital city of China for five dynasties. After the CCP seized control of government functions in 1949, Beijing was infused with massive industrial investment. It became a leading industrial city during the Mao era, with manufacturing and heavy industry accounting for virtually all economic output (Wei and Yu 2006). Today, Beijing is an emergent global city, and ser vices have supplanted industrial production as the leading sector of industry. As one of fifty-five “world cities” Beijing is a site of a large producer ser vices sector and includes multiser vice financial firms, legal ser vices, and advertising, drawing multitudes of global professionals (Beaverstock et al. 1999). Beijing’s GDP is greater than many of China’s provinces; it ranks twelfth in GDP out of China’s thirty-one provinces and special administrative regions (Statistical Yearbook of China 2010).23 As the capital of the most populous country and second-largest economy in the world, the city is also the site for a considerable governmental administrative apparatus. Not only do global cities such as Beijing attract affluent professionals for employment in producer ser vices; these cities also tend to be magnets for large migrant populations, drawn to the urban center to labor in lowwage informal sector consumer ser vice jobs. According to the 2000 census, Beijing hosted 2.6 million migrants that year. Migrants comprised 25 percent of the city’s population (Liang and Ma 2004).24 By 2009 the number rose to over 10 million (Gao 2010). These workers are systematically disenfranchised by the residential system; their reduced status is especially evident in their vulnerable and highly exploitative conditions of labor. With an army of urban professionals living in proximity to these disenfranchised rural migrants, Beijing evinces the income and wealth polarization tendencies characteristic of global cities (Sassen 1998). Kunming, the second site of this study, is not a global city. Kunming is the provincial capital of Yunnan, a southwestern interior province bordering Tibet, Sichuan, Guizhou, and Guangxi provinces as well as the


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countries of Myanmar, Vietnam, and Laos. Kunming is a prefecturelevel city with a population of 5.74 million. Like other interior provinces, Yunnan receives little of the DFI that flows generously into Beijing— a mere 13 percent of the DFI directed into China (Wei and Liu 2001: 27– 29). In fact, Yunnan ranked twenty-third among twenty-nine DFI recipient regions in China (Wei and Liu 2001: 29). Instead, investment tends to originate from domestic sources: the CCP inaugurated a development and investment scheme for these provinces as part of its ninth five-year plan (1996–2000). Known popularly as the “Great Leap West” this development scheme offers redistributive programs to correct the regionally uneven growth that evolved in the reform era.25 Yunnan’s economy relies heavily on extractive industries based on natural resources, such as tin, copper, lead, and zinc, as well as logging and tobacco cultivation. Yunnan is also a major drug-trafficking corridor, with heroin moving from Laos, Burma, and Vietnam through the province to overseas markets (S. Liu 2011). Tourism has become a pillar of the economic strategy to modernize inland provinces and to introduce some of the prosperity enjoyed by the eastern seaboard provinces (the focal point of foreign investment) to the interior. Tourists traveling in Yunnan hail mostly from locations within China, and the number of foreign visitors to the province pales in comparison to the number visiting Beijing (China National Tourism Administration 2008). Global lodging chains began to build hotel highrises only in 1999, when Kunming hosted the World Horticultural Exposition. Domestic tourism is one of China’s fastest-growing industries, and Yunnan Province in particular holds a magnetic appeal for domestic tourists. The province is unparalleled in the country for its cultural and biological diversity. Yunnan spans multiple climatic zones—tropical, subtropical, temperate, and frozen— and contains well over half of the country’s plant species. One feature makes Yunnan a particularly enticing destination for men seeking sexual adventure: the availability of ethnic minority women, made exotic for the tourist economy. For officials and entrepreneurs alike, Yunnan offers inestimable opportunities to capitalize on the growing popularity of ethnic tourism, which in turn relies in large part on sexualized images of ethnic minority women

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inhabiting China’s hinterlands. Such images are widely circulated by the media in Han Chinese regions (Hyde 2007). As a tourist destination, Yunnan is marketed through images of these women, who are made to appear mysteriously alluring— and often erotic— and are reputed to engage in heterodox sexual practices.26 As in other postsocialist societies, sex work has boomed with the emergence of commercial exchange in China. Although sex work was fairly common in the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) through the Republican period (1911–1949), China’s socialist regime eradicated commercial sex work between the 1950s and the 1970s (Hershatter 1997; Parish et al. 2003). Today commercial sex work is undergoing a renaissance. A nationally representative survey found that 9 percent of men reported paying for sex (Parish et al. 2003). A multitude of urban commercial spaces accommodate commercial sex work, including restaurants, cafés, karaoke bars, massage parlors, and even hairdressers, where men may receive all manner of massages. In Yunnan the tourist complex is shaping up to be a massive red-light district. The portrayal of non-Han Chinese women as an exotic and erotic “other” to the Han Chinese is a direct reflection of contemporary ethnic hierarchies among China’s various ethnic groups, including the Han. Th is hierarchy reflects the influence of a Mao-era state racial project, a centrally organized effort on the part of the communist government to identify, categorize, order, and control peoples who potentially claim alternative political loyalties and cultural identities. This state-orchestrated classification project ranked ethnic groups in accordance with Marxist stage theory. State-sponsored ethnographers placed each of the state’s officially designated fifty-five ethnic minority groups at points along a graduated scale of economic development ranging from primitive communist, slave society, and feudalist to capitalist and socialist. Dominating membership in the Communist Party, the vanguard of socialism in China, the Han majority achieved the pinnacle stage and was put forth as a model for other ethnic groups to emulate. In this way, Marxist developmental theory was used to reinforce the moral authority of the Han over China’s other ethnic groups. In the process the state created the category “xiaoshu minzu,” or “ethnic minority,” to identify all non-Han peoples. Through this historical process, “ethnic minority” has come to


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be closely associated with “backwardness” and “periphery” in the popular imagination. The tourism industry taps into fantasies about these groups through formal performances of ethnic minority cultures staged in parks, restaurants, and karaoke bars for tourist consumption (Oakes 1998; Swain 1993). Ethnic theme parks, such as Kunming’s Ethnic Village (minzucun), immensely popular among tourists, epitomize the rapid commodification of ethnic culture. In these parks, young recruits from each of the region’s ethnic groups inhabit reconstructed villages, singing and dancing for tourists, who roam freely throughout the park. Hostesses invite tourists to splash water on female Dai dancers in a re-creation of the annual watersplashing festival. Young people from remote villages, some of whom experience grinding poverty, proudly accept the honor of being chosen to represent their ethnic group in the provincial capital. In ethnic-themed restaurants, women don ethnic costumes and sing and dance for customers, also engaging men in drinking games and group dances and offering customers neck massages at their tables. At the same time, migrants travel to Kunming, Yunnan, to work in informal sector industries, including sex ser vices (Liang and Ma 2004: 480). According to the 2000 census, the 2.5 million migrants in Yunnan represent almost 6 percent of the province’s total population of 42 million (Liang and Ma 2004). Migrants originate from Guizhou, Guiyang, and Sichuan and travel to Kunming as well as some of the other tourist cities in Yunnan, such as Xishuangbanna, Dali, and Lijiang. Almost 54 percent of migrants move from within the province, however (Liang and Ma 2004), often from the province’s poor remote rural areas. Yunnan Province experienced an increase in migration between 1990 and 2000 of 230 percent (Liang and Ma 2004). Beijing and Kunming thus provide a compelling set of contrasts for comparison of labor processes in similar organizations. The two metropolises are unevenly integrated into the global economy, each drawing different types and levels of foreign investment. Ser vices are a major employer in both cities, but ser vices receive far more foreign investment in Beijing than they do in Kunming. Although sex work certainly exists in Beijing, it is not central to the city’s economy, as it is in Kunming, where it is crucial to the city’s tourist economy. The divergent economic

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compositions of the cities form fundamentally different contexts that shape the character of formal sector ser vice work, but informal sector work is less affected by the immediate economic climate of each city. It is more profoundly influenced by the centrally mandated, locally implemented state residence permit system (discussed earlier). Hence, informal sector work in these two cities shares quite similar characteristics. Within the formal sector, the regional and economic context matters in part due to the types of firms and the types of travelers attracted to the respective locales. The next section takes a closer look at these firms and the tourist industry in each city.

Tourism and the Hotel Industry To investigate the effects of globalization on service work in the formal sector I selected two luxury hotels as ethnographic field sites. Hotels are a fundamental part of a larger infrastructure of tourism, which is now the largest employment sector in the world (ILO 2001; World Tourism Organization 2002).27 In 2000, growth in China’s domestic tourist sector outpaced GDP, and by 2001 China ranked fifth among the world’s nations in its share of international tourist receipts and arrivals (Luo 2001: 288).28 Hotels are at the epicenter of China’s booming tourist economy. But the story of China’s modern hotels begins with the CCP. After the 1949 revolution, the CCP developed a lodging infrastructure, constructing hundreds of state guesthouses in major cities to accommodate dignitaries and diplomats from the Soviet Union, Vietnam, and other countries with which it maintained diplomatic relations. Equipped with army guards and security checkpoints, these guesthouses were more like military barracks than hotels (Mak 2008).29 By the 1980s, international hoteliers began building joint-venture lodging complexes in partnership with state-owned enterprises, including factories, government bureaus, banks, various arms of the military, and “quasi governmental investment corporations” (Loh 1996).30 The state-owned enterprises controlled personnel issues, in part, through the state-organized labor union, the AllChina Federation of Trade Unions (Chan 2000). They secured a wide array of worker benefits from the global investments that the state alone


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had once provided (Pearson 1992). The global partners offered access to foreign currency and new technology while also introducing Western management practices. In the new millennium, China’s hotel industry experienced explosive growth. Between the years 1998 and 2000 the number of star-rated hotels almost doubled, from 3,248 to 6,029 (Tourism Statistical Yearbook of China 1999: 358, 363; Tourism Statistical Yearbook of China 2000: 398). By the year 2000 the hotel industry employed more than 1.2 million workers nationwide (Labor Statistical Yearbook of China 2001: 119). The virtual doubling of room stock over the course of just two years created a crisis of oversupply in the industry, leaving China’s hotel industry with a financial loss of more than $500 million (Pine 2002). The Beijing and Kunming Transluxury Hotels adopted divergent approaches to restoring profit that ultimately affected the organization of service labor. Each hotel organized new consumer ser vices designed to appeal to and amplify the aspirations for respect, acknowledgment, and distinction of the most affluent market of consumers available. Each hotel developed a different strategy of engagement with global capital, designed to ensure the highest and most reliable rate of profit for the local owner. The Beijing Transluxury (BT) opened its doors for business in 1991. It is co-owned through an equity joint venture between a U.S.-based transnational corporation, which I will call “Galaxy,” and a central ministry of the Chinese national government, which controls a majority share in the venture. Galaxy owns hundreds of properties in eighty countries, making it one of the most internationalized hotel corporations in the world (ILO 2001). The hotelier employs a total staff of well over 100,000 worldwide; it is among the top ten most profitable hotel chains in the world. Several factors drew the Galaxy Corporation into the partnership: the domestic partner’s position at the pinnacle of the state administrative hierarchy, its elaborate web of political connections, and its central location in a global metropolis. Galaxy recruited experienced Transluxury executive managers from the United States, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand to operate the hotel. In response to the oversupply crisis that hit the hotel industry, the BT targeted the upper reaches of an elite, predominately male, international consumer market, which includes national presidents, royalty,

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celebrities, and CEOs of Fortune 500 firms. To appeal to this market, it offers highly customized ser vices, for which the firm raised its standard room rates.31 The BT’s ser vices are designed to appeal to its clients’ expectations for custom services— services that are usually provided by their own personal staffs of secretaries, administrators, maids, and butlers. Multinational luxury hotels invest heavily in customer-oriented technologies that allow workers to customize ser vice by storing individual preference data (ILO 2001).32 Building luxury hotels in global cities like Beijing presents vast profit potential for international hotel conglomerates. Smaller, less globally networked regions pose limits to earnings for these hoteliers. The terms of contracts with conglomerates can be onerous for local partners. International hotel conglomerates require high-cost inputs imported from Western countries, including construction materials, furnishings, decor, and items consumed in the hotel. Compounding expenses, the major international hoteliers import executive managers from Western nations and pay them relatively high Western salaries in U.S. currency, while repatriating profits earned through managerial and franchise contracts (Camacho 1996; ILO 2001). In response to the crisis of oversupply in the hotel industry, the management of the Kunming Transluxury (KT) pursued a localization strategy designed to cut costs in a competitive bid for domestic business clientele. The KT is owned by a provincial-level state agency. Unable to negotiate a satisfactory managerial contract with Galaxy, the agency recruited fifty Chinese managers with ample previous experience in the Galaxy-operated Xi’an Transluxury Hotel to implement the global firm’s template and protocols. The state agency uses the Transluxury brand name for its hotel and adopts the Transluxury organizational template. The remaining full-time staff members are urban residents of Kunming. As mentioned earlier, tourism is a centerpiece of Yunnan’s economy, and it relies in large part on the exotic appeal of the region’s ethnic minorities (Oakes 1998; Swain 1993) as well as on the sex industry. The KT adapts its ser vices to the tastes, expectations, and desires of its entertainmentseeking domestic clientele, including organizing escort ser vices. In contrast, the BT deploys a video surveillance system and security staff to obstruct commercial sex work. By facilitating the commercial engagement


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and exchange of women within its entertainment venues such as karaoke bars and saunas, the KT provides a platform for local clientelist business practices. The workforce at each hotel is gender stratified. Men monopolize the ranks of executive management. The Western, multinational origins of the BT executive managers reflect the international composition of its clientele; the KT executive team’s exclusively Chinese origins reflect the Chinese composition of its consumer market. At each hotel, middle managers and staff are local, urban residents. Men compose approximately three-quarters of midlevel management at both hotels. Women fill the vast majority of frontline staff and supervisor positions. The formal organizational structures of the two hotels are almost identical. Each hotel uses the same ten-grade wage system and the same hierarchy of employment positions, as well as the same standards and procedures for ser vice. The All-China Federation of Trade Unions maintains a branch at each hotel. Each hotel employs roughly 500 workers. Legal restrictions require both hotels to hire only urban residents for formal positions. Most frontline workers are female high school graduates who live with their parents and range in age from 17 to 28 years. They sign two-year labor contracts and receive comparable base wages after adjusting for the higher cost of living in Beijing. Neither set of workers can afford to lodge or dine in the hotels that employ them: a standard room rate for one evening of lodging at each of the hotels is roughly equivalent to one month’s wages. Workers wear similarly sexualized uniforms, including French maid outfits and brocaded, thigh-revealing qipaos.33 Differences between the two hotels emerge from the very distinctive sets of clientele and the institutionally and culturally embedded strategies that local actors developed to manage customers. Informal sector businesses serve tourists and local residents alike. Informal sector workers are female and mostly of the same age (17–28) as the hotel workers, but some are as young as 15 years old. They have migrated from China’s vast rural regions to work in cities. Compared to workers in hotels, they have substantially less education: most migrant workers I surveyed had completed primary school (six years), although some had dropped out before completing even six years of education. A

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few had attended some junior middle school. Although the informal service sector has no direct ties to the global economy, it has played a crucial role in China’s emergence as a global economic superpower. If large firms do not cultivate the labor of workers to appeal to consumer markets, then what explains workers’ adaptive responses to the local consumers they ser vice? Th rough the household registration system, which excludes rural migrants from settlement in urban areas and exempts them from the protections of the nation’s labor laws, the state guarantees ser vice employers a large labor force of low-wage workers. These workers subsidize the transition to a market economy by providing low-cost labor in outlets that make myriad consumer ser vices available to urban workers. This single institutional structure creates comparable labor conditions for migrant workers in Beijing and Kunming. This structure provides the institutional context that explains workers’ adaptation to the local consumer markets they ser vice. The residential permit system underwrites sharp and pervasive urban discrimination against rural workers by placing these workers in a position of vulnerability vis-à-vis both urban employers and urban customers. In response to their vulnerability, workers voluntarily alter their behaviors and interactive styles to melt unobtrusively into the urban milieu and pass as urbanites so as to avoid the severe judgment of their urban employers and customers.

Conclusion As China’s consumer economy booms, the ser vice industry grows apace, creating new forms of occupational sex segregation. Ser vice employment holds little promise of leading working-class women into future careers or even stable employment, creating a ghetto of jobs similar to ser vice jobs in advanced national economies. This chapter has traced the historical evolution of women’s work in China, documenting shifts in patterns of women’s work and employment. The chapter also examined the political economy of consumer services in each of the cities hosting the ethnographic research. These are cities standing at opposite poles of development. They therefore allow for a comparison of dramatically different labor for ser vice workers. Having provided a historical and economic


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background, in the next three chapters I venture directly into the workplaces where women labor at, and struggle with, the acquisition of new embodied feminine sensibilities. Each chapter investigates how consumer markets create the basis for adaptation of labor practices and the ways these practices become embedded in employment legacies and practical gender schemata.

2 Virtual Personalism Importing Global Luxury and Emphasized Femininity to the Beijing Transluxury Hotel

A Night at the Beijing Transluxury As I walked into the hotel I was suddenly aware that my bags didn’t match. I pulled a pirated version of a Samsonite carry-on that my friend purchased for about a dollar in Beijing. Other guests ported perfectly matching bags and suitcases. I also felt utterly out of place in my jeans and T-shirt. When I pulled my old money belt out of the recesses of my backpack to give the front desk agent my American Express card, I realized the fabric was a bit grimy. The accoutrements that went unnoticed on the streets of urban China were now a source of embarrassment. A giant Christmas tree graced the middle of the lobby, and the live music of a string quartet floated down from the second floor. When I arrived at my room, I found a note card that had been personally handwritten by Jason, my butler. The message, composed in English, welcomed me to Beijing and informed me that he was available if I needed any assistance. I immediately dug out my best outfit from my bags and changed. I then rode the elevator to the eighteenth-floor lounge, where I marveled at the shimmer of lights blanketing the city at night. The female butler requested my room key and then greeted me: “Good evening, Dr. Otis. May I offer you a cocktail?” I sipped a flute of champagne and proceeded to the buffet, where complimentary dim sum was served on thick sterling silver trays.


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There were two Chinese guests, five Westerners, and two gentlemen from India. I overheard one guest breathlessly discuss new investment opportunities with another: “In Macedonia, we have free trade agreements with a number of countries. Our labor is quite cheap . . . we are going to be the Singapore of Europe. We just passed a law— very low corporate tax. We have free trade with Europe . . . you can import anything, pharmaceuticals, cars, food . . . anything!” The man asked the butler to help him call all the major news stations in Beijing to get the word out about the new free trade zone. After returning to my room I called Jason to unpack my bag, a service off ered by the hotel. On the phone, he greeted me by name and welcomed me genially, apologizing for failing to meet me in person upon my arrival. When he arrived at my room he apologized again for not meeting me. He asked me if it was okay to go deliver clothes that I would like ironed before he unpacked my luggage. I said that would be fine. When I returned from dinner Jason had left me yet another card telling me in detail where he had placed my clothes, also letting me know that he would be available at any time for service. Chocolates had been placed in a basket next to my bed and slippers laid out on top of a towel for me. Soothing classical music filled the room and the lighting was dimmed to a warm, intimate glow.

Virtual Personalism and the Beijing Transluxury Hotel “Who is he sleeping with? . . . the [Transluxury Hotel],” reads the tagline on a new Transluxury advertisement that features a man of European origin slumbering blissfully alone in a Transluxury Hotel bed.1 The advertisement implies that he has no need for a lover, since the Transluxury Hotel will cater to his needs and desires. At the Beijing Transluxury (BT), which implemented a set of service-labor practices that I term “virtual personalism,” workers vigilantly attend to the personal consumption preferences of Western business clientele. But personalism is virtual because workers rely on computer database technologies to customize ser vice, rather than draw on their own personal knowledge of customer preferences. By using computer technology to simulate personal

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relationships, the BT can assign any worker to customize ser vice for a given client; the worker need not have any acquaintance with the customer. In addition, managers use a model of “emphasized femininity,” a set of traits associated with middle-class women (Connell 1987) to train their young female staff to magnify, and care about, infinitesimal details of customer preferences. Emphasized femininity denotes sexual modesty, a level of selflessness in caring for and nurturing others, as well as deferential behavior (Connell 1987). Managers also use these norms to create a staff of workers who seem familiar and comforting to their predominately Western, male clientele. Managers train women’s bodies to bear the signs of class consonant with the niche market of guests they ser vice. Virtual personalism is not organized in a vacuum, however. It is adapted to socialist work legacies and filtered through workers’ own cultural norms. Workers add a layer of virtualness to personalism, as they interpret customization routines through a hierarchical model of relationships that increases their distance from customers. This chapter uncovers the reasons why ser vice work becomes acceptable, even desirable, to women workers at the BT and examines how compliance to ser vice inequalities occurs through the acquisition of a new set of embodied gender sensibilities.

Tending to the Discriminating Taste of a Transnational Business Class The BT serves a predominantly Western male clientele, which includes national presidents, royalty, celebrities, diplomats, and business executives. A glossy advertisement folio contains photographs of the general manager shaking hands with high-profile clients including, the chairman of of Turner Broadcasting and the CEOs of the Ford Motor Company and Time Warner. During my stay at the BT, Henry Kissinger resided there for two nights. As an emergent global city, Beijing attracts elites and global professionals. The world’s luxury hotels follow these professionals to China’s populous capital. To serve this class of well-heeled globe-trotters, hotels create plush, elegant atmospheres that segregate guests from the rush and swirl of local life. The BT’s interior is a spectacle of elegance: the lobby floors


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are laid in Italian marble, the furniture is upholstered in exquisite Chinese silk, several palm trees tower above the lobby, a grand staircase sweeps up to the second floor, and strains of live quartet music waft down from the balcony. The hotel’s interiors are splashed with a pastiche of indigenous color so the customer is reminded that he is in China. Designerselected local artifacts accent the interior. Symbols of local history and civilization are filtered through Western presentational conventions. In the lobby bar of the BT, gilded Buddha heads are perched on the shelves surrounding guests. Modernized paintings of Buddha in an Andy Warhol– esque play of Crayola-color commercial repetition loom over customers in the Chinese restaurant. Faux Ming-period lacquered cabinets house televisions and DVD players in guest rooms. Design elements from Europe, America, and China stand side by side in stylized, multicultural harmony. Luxury chain hotels operate as a cultural prophylactic, allowing travelers to inhabit foreign countries without contending with the challenges of unfamiliar cultural spaces. As such, the hotel’s interior pays homage to local style and history at the same time that the BT offers sanctuary from the dust, crowds, and cacophony of the streets of Beijing just outside the door. To keep out any undesirable elements, especially sex workers and their pimps, armies of dashing male security guards in tasteful gray suits patrol the lobby and halls. What these guards do not witness, the eagleeyed surveillance cameras do. Meanwhile, a corps of young women monitor the propensities and predilections of their clientele. These women are trained to recognize the subtle refinements of taste among the BT guests. At the BT, staff members magically know guests’ names and preferences, such as what kind of fruit they enjoy, the newspapers they read, and whether they prefer a foam or feather pillow. Female frontline staff members, who directly interact with customers in restaurants, lounges, and at the front desk, memorize the names and titles of each guest, their partners, their children, and even their favorite dishes and drinks. Female room attendants act like detectives, taking note of where each guest leaves his TV remote, wastebasket, and razor so that they can place these items accordingly upon each visit. The customization ser vices involve a calculus of status in which each customer is assumed to possess a refi nement of taste to which employees cater.

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The knowledge employees glean from interaction with guests is used to develop individual customer computer files containing lists of preferences amounting to, in some cases, fifty pages of information.2 These records provide a footprint of ser vice activity that other workers can follow so that, with the aid of computer technology, any worker may cater to guests’ personal tastes. Hence, personalism is virtual: a pseudointimacy between the firm and the customer is produced, in part, through workers’ interactions with a computer. The firm does not rely on the personal knowledge and relationships workers develop with customers to produce a sense of warm familiarity.3 Instead, any worker may have knowledge of the customers’ preferences, thus rendering these workers replaceable. These repertoires are not unique to the BT. Individual personalization of the ser vice product was innovated by the Ritz-Carlton and is now used throughout the world by global luxury hoteliers, most of which are headquartered in the United States and Europe (Jones et al. 1997; Partlow 1993; Sherman 2007). Like these hotels, the BT offers a personalized ser vice experience that reproduces the status of elites by acknowledging the importance of tending to their discerning taste in a cosseted space. Large firms that service thousands of customers cannot possibly forge personal connections with customers (personalism). Instead they attempt to approximate personalism as closely as possible through the use of computerstored customer information to cater to guests’ specific preferences. The BT’s advertising slogan captures the invented familiarity: “We know you intimately.” But ser vice customization is embedded in a less familiar set of personal orientations of sociability that employees import into the workplace. Furthermore, a socialist-era set of work processes underpins the production of the familiar at the BT.

Embeddedness in Socialist Work Legacies The BT is jointly owned by the Galaxy Corporation and one of China’s central state ministries, which holds a controlling interest in the hotel property. The labor that takes place in the front stage of the hotel (the areas where guests circulate) is controlled by the team of executive managers dispatched by the Galaxy Corporation. But backstage matters,


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such as compensation, benefits discipline, and workplace welfare, are managed by the government ministry that co-owns the hotel. These practices replicate key elements of Mao-era employment legacies. The Galaxy Corporation, which provides the capital and profits to sustain relatively high levels of workplace welfare benefits, enables the reproduction of Mao-era workplace practices.4 These benefits are fundamental to the labor regime of virtual personalism, especially its requirement that workers enact a Western, middle-class, feminine sensibility. Material supports, reminiscent of the more resource-abundant Mao-era workplaces, foster congenial and trusting manager-employee relations that, in turn, enable management to inculcate service-personalization techniques as well as new feminine forms of embodiment. By thus embedding imported personalization ser vice practices in modified redistributional legacies inherited from the local firm’s parent, the central ministry, the BT combines the organizational cultures of its Western and Chinese partners. Together, the state-sponsored workers’ union and the enterprise management determine employee benefits within the broad guidelines stipulated by the 1994 labor law. The human resources department administers welfare benefits, whereas the union organizes most other perquisites, ser vices, and activities. Part of the state-sponsored All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the hotel’s union branch combines its traditional Mao-era mandate—to transmit party policy to the workplace in a top-down fashion—with a new mandate to support enterprise management’s profit-making objectives. In an interview with Transluxury’s union chairman, Mr. Lu, a stoic man, worn from years of agricultural labor performed during the Cultural Revolution, made this link clear: “Through its various activities, the union helps to realize management goals.” Consistent with the multiple roles of union chairmen in Mao-era state enterprises, Mr. Lu was also in charge of hotel security and served as the hotel’s party chief. The financial success of the BT and its wealthy joint-venture partner, the Galaxy Corporation, allows management to offer relatively generous benefits to workers. The hotel provides housing subsidies, retirement benefits, and unemployment insurance, all of which are portable. This allows workers to accumulate these resources in an account so that

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they may take them to their subsequent employers. Staff receives health insurance and subsidies for parental funeral expenses. Entry-level wages are equivalent to $150 per month, slightly below the average wage in Beijing. Workers are rewarded with a 20 percent bonus when the hotel meets its profit goals, which it often does. When bonuses are included, employee wages rise above the city’s wage average (Labor Statistical Yearbook of China 2001: 95). One vestige of socialist practice that frustrates Western managers is workers’ habit of sharing wage information with each other. The executive management team tried to implement a more graduated wage hierarchy to motivate workers, but they contended with a barrage of complaints from workers whenever wages were increased inequitably. As in the Mao era, on special occasions, such as the Moon Festival, workers receive consumer items like cases of cooking oil, fruit, or soda. In the Mao era such items, called “worker guarantees” (laobao), were often difficult to acquire outside of the workplace and tended to be selectively distributed to secure the loyalty of activist workers (Walder 1986). At the hotel these items continue to be termed “worker guarantees,” but the union and management distribute them equitably among workers. On Chinese New Year, the union distributes to workers a traditional cash bonus, tucked into red envelopes. Organized through the labor union, these perquisites are distributed often without the prior knowledge or approval of the Western executive management. The American general manager actually objected to the distribution of commodity items to hotel staff, a vestige of the socialist “iron rice bowl.” Voicing an opinion typical of the Western management, the general manager explained: The system perpetuates a lack of responsibility. So if all I give you is X amount to survive on and I promise you that your other needs will be taken care of, then in effect you take 75 percent of what you and I are responsible for as Westerners, for ourselves, and you take it away from the individual. They don’t understand what it’s like to have to be responsible, to have to provide for themselves.

According to this view, workplace provisioning deprived workers of opportunities to exercise choice in consumer markets, and this lack of consumer discretion undermines self-sufficiency and responsibility.


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Some of the benefits that workers receive help them meet the BT’s requirements for self-presentation. Among these are highly subsidized haircuts, conveniently offered in the hotel, as well as complimentary socks and hosiery. On International Women’s Day, the union distributes a gift of makeup to female staff and invites a makeup specialist to provide application instruction. Other ser vices promoted state policy, like the one-child-per-family policy. For sexually active staff, birth control, including the “morning-after pill,” is available in the hotel clinic. Female managers carry out family-planning work, distributing birth control directly to sexually active female staff. On national holidays managers distribute “high-quality,” Western-imported, strawberry-flavored condoms.5 Although executive managers from the West disapprove of this in-kind welfare because of its alleged undermining of individual efficacy, gift giving sustains a personal set of ties between giver and receiver, firm and worker (Yang 2002), that is symbolically central to creating cooperative managerial-staff relationships at the BT.6 Just as leaders of the Mao-era work unit coordinated the leisure time of the workers, so too does union leadership at the BT. The stateoperated union organizes a wide array of sports competitions, as well as singles parties, collective weddings, birthday parties, and holiday celebrations. Management also organizes celebrations, usually for national holidays. For example, management staged a “Return of Macao Gameshow.” Staff received high-end electronic appliances and watches for correctly answering questions about the island of Macao, which reunited with the mainland in 1999. Another ceremony, held annually, celebrates male staff members recruited for military ser vice. The hotel provides at least one volunteer per year and contributes 20,000 yuan (US$2,500) to the military for each of the recruit’s two years of ser vice. Anxious male workers draw straws for the “voluntary” post. The hotel also sponsors department-level outings to plays and concerts. During these celebrations, management tolerates expressions of workplace dissent. For example, during the Chinese New Year party, staff members performed a skit parodying pretentious customers who showed off their expensive new watches and mobile phones. At the same event, managers engaged in self-lampooning antics; the head of accounting from New Zealand burlesqued in drag, peeling off layers of women’s clothing

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until nearly naked; his performance met with uproarious laughter among employees. The benefits, the wages, and the prestige of the ministry that owns the hotel prompt workers to view the hotel as a “good work unit.” Yingying, a waitress in the Southern Gate restaurant, commented, “When I tell people that I work for the [Beijing Transluxury], they’re impressed.” Workers did complain about the high-stress work environment, but given the appeal of the workplace, most reported that they considered themselves fortunate to have a job at the BT. In general, the BT’s welfare benefits coupled with the prestige of the hotel conditioned workers’ receptivity to the often deeply personal interventions of local middle managers, who were charged with creating service workers who cared about consumer preferences and who would also embody an emphasized femininity familiar and comforting to their guests. But employees’ receptivity to transformation at the hands of managers cannot be explained solely by the benefits and status offered at the hotel. To aid workers’ transformation into feminized Transluxury service workers, middle managers attempt to cultivate personal, trusting, and ultimately paternalistic relationships with their workers.

Staff-Management Relations: Emphasizing Femininity on the Body In order to execute the hotel’s exacting customization protocols, workers must develop a sufficient understanding of the habits and preferences of the hotel’s elite Western clientele. Midlevel managers cultivate a comprehension of clients’ tastes among their staff members, also recrafting workers’ perceptions, bodies, and identities to appeal to these preferences. The hotel’s midlevel management are local workers and predominately male, although about 30 percent of the lower levels of middle management are female. The attempts at personal transformation draw on a Western cultural norm of emphasized femininity. As mentioned earlier, emphasized femininity is defined by care, sexual modesty, and putting others before the self (Connell 1987). It also includes a display of extroversion, “a certain type of outgoing, middle class sociability” (Hochschild 1983: 97), that was not part of the existing local repertoire of feminine expression. The emphasized femininity promoted at the BT is fused


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with a discourse of individualism, a technique to measure and evaluate workers that forms competitive relations between them (Foucault 1979). Emphasized femininity is, of course, displayed on the body, and its enactment by workers at the BT therefore requires that managers comment in detail on workers’ bodies and personal habits. This intimate regulation of workers’ selves becomes possible because managers forge bonds of trust with workers. With a substructure of material support as the foundation for worker goodwill, midlevel managers spin a fabric of trust with employees, a fabric that allows managers to comment on the intimate details of workers’ hygiene, comportment, facial gestures, and even morality. The hotel’s executive management encourages lower-level, local managers to develop mentor-like relationships with their workers and to adopt a “personal and positive approach,” according to the employee handbook. These managers are evaluated based on how effectively they build employee confidence. The sole manager I witnessed raise her voice to a staff member was dismissed a few weeks later. Managers cultivate friendly, if manipulative, bonds with workers that allow them to develop considerable personal knowledge of staff members’ habits. Flattened organizational hierarchies narrow functional distance, permitting managers to observe, advise, and even work alongside their staff members. A manager explained, “I’m their supervisor and their assistant.” Restaurant managers tote drink orders to guests and dispatch dirty ashtrays to the dishwasher. Managers dine with workers at the canteen, where I overheard frequent commiserations over irascible customers. During these occasions and others, managers act like surrogate parents, inquiring into staff members’ sex lives, home lives, and futures; they know the dating status of workers, regularly offering relationship advice. Managers tend to use workplace social events such as parties, outings, and competitions to build a foundation of sentiment, granting young staff their personal concern, time, and attention outside of work hours. Many meet with workers’ parents, occasionally intervening in family affairs to ensure workplace commitment. A manager told a waitress’s mother, “Work at the hotel is hard and tiring . . . the child can’t do a lot around the house.” Not only do manager offer support with personal matters, but they also avoid issuing misconduct slips to workers, a formal organizational

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mechanism for penalizing those who violate work rules. Instead they maintain an informal record of infractions so that they might iron out problems personally. Middle managers maintain personal notebooks in which they record worker infractions for their own records. Managers also pool workers’ tips, using the money to purchase items in bulk (combs, brushes, small food items, makeup for women, razors for men) that they personally distribute to workers, converting an individual resource into a collective one. Workers generally respond positively to managers, typically referring to them as “older sister” ( jiejie) or “older brother” (gege). A waitress commented, “Our manager is so amiable, she’s like my old mother.” In these ways, BT middle managers perpetuate a Mao-era legacy of personalism. During that time, managers exercised authority over the personal lives of their staff (Walder 1986). Of course, these paternalistic relationships are put to very different purposes. At the BT they are a conduit for training women in the art of emphasized femininity. Before this training begins, workers are screened for how well they approximate a feminine ideal. Articulating these employment standards, a manager stated soberly to me after conducting an interview with a candidate, “I will hire her for her body.” All female employees are required to be at least five feet two inches tall.7 During one recruitment drive I was asked to screen applicants for their English skills. The personnel manager instructed me to also assess the physical appeal of each candidate using a code system.8 Female candidates who look of “questionable morality” are summarily rejected. The personnel manager refused to consider employing a candidate she described as a “fox fairy,” the mythical seductress of China’s classical folk tales. Managers reject women who are too old (past their late twenties) or too short or who appear too sexually available. Shorter or less conventionally attractive recruits who did make the cut felt pressure to compensate. For example, a café waitress confessed to me, “I have to improve my English skills; otherwise they will dismiss me because I’m too short.” Beauty standards exerted a disciplinary effect on all workers concerned about inadequacies in their personal appearance and bodies. Managers consider newly hired workers to be “blank sheets of paper” (baizhi), an expression they frequently used. As inexperienced,


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live-at-home adolescents, staff members are taken as impressionable and pliable. Employment at the BT is the first work experience for most of the young, female frontline staff members; managers present themselves as shepherding workers through a rite of passage into adulthood. One manager often pointed out to me, “I’m teaching them to become human beings.” Through continual training, managers expect to mold them into refined servers who attend to the minutiae of customer preference, including preferences about which customers might not be consciously aware. During intensive training sessions, managers attempted to inculcate a deep consciousness of what workers originally viewed as minor and trivial variations in customer taste. The need to train workers in this way should be understood in light of the fact that these workers are the first generation of youth who have actually experienced a measure of brand differentiation and choice in consumer goods and ser vices. Workers were skeptical that brands offered any meaningful material distinctions between products. Nevertheless, employees were to notice what type of bottled water customers preferred, what types of fruit they selected from the fruit baskets placed in their rooms daily, and where they placed their toothbrushes and deodorant in the morning, so as to re-place them accordingly after cleaning. This level of attentiveness to customers is a central component of enacting emphasized femininity because it demonstrates a keen, caring perception of nuances in taste that distinguish classes of people. Unlike managers in Hochschild’s (1983) study, who asked flight attendants to apply emotional sensibilities from their middle-class homes to the airplane cabins where they served passengers, BT managers made no appeals to import private domestic sentiments to the ser vice floor. Rather, managers showed workers how to physically enact new modes of comportment, expression, and perception. An umbrella term denotes this new suite of aptitudes: soft skills. The class of skills that are designated “soft” requires the ineffable ability to observe behavioral evidence of the personal desires of others. One of the local training managers, Lila, explained soft skills to employees: Everyone has his or her unique personality, habits, and temperaments. So you understand what [guests] really want through observing. . . . This we call “soft skills.” As far as how to set up banquet tables or hold up the dinner

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tray, we call it “hard skill.” “Hard skill,” once you learn it, you’ll have it. Soft skills require flexibility. It requires your sixth sense. There’s no end in terms of learning soft skills.

Management’s objective is to cultivate among employees nonreflexive, automatic ser vice responses keyed to each customer’s behaviors and preferences. Workers begin developing these capacities during their preemployment training. I observed two preemployment training sessions, which convened in a dimly lit classroom adjacent to the human resources department in the basement of the hotel. New trainees, freshly frocked in hostess, waitress, housekeeping, and security uniforms, fi led into the classroom and took their seats on metal folding chairs surrounding a U-shaped arrangement of desks. After preliminary greetings from the executive managers, the training manager distributed an ostensibly blank sheet of white paper to the trainees. He asked these new employees to describe any markings that appeared to them on the sheet. The trainees responded that the paper was blank. But then the trainer distributed an additional piece of paper, this one pink, with a small hole in the middle. Trainees moved the aperture to specks on the otherwise clean sheet of white paper to reveal a tiny pattern of lines that materialized with the aid of the punctured pink paper. The trainer explained, “When a guest has a special request or need we should remember you reduce the scope from this big [holds hands out wide] to this small [points to punctured hole in paper]. Our guests have their idiosyncrasies, and these need our focus.” The exercise attempts to inculcate the ability to magnify the subtleties of customer behavior through adjusting worker perception. Not only are workers required to put customers under a metaphorical microscope as they attend to them; workers must also identify with the customers’ responses and in the process squelch any impulse to impose their own aesthetics, sense of what is correct, or their personal definition of the situation upon customers. During role-playing for new staff members, a waitress pretended to serve the training manager a Bloody Mary. Acting as a customer, the manager scowled as he mimicked tasting the drink, complaining, “Why is my Bloody Mary yellow?” To gloss over the mistake, the waitress retorted, “That’s a Beijing Bloody Mary!” The


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trainer persisted, “I just want a regular Bloody Mary—bloody means red. Have you heard of a yellow Bloody Mary? Should we change the name to an Orange Mary?” The waitress then turned to the staff member who was role-playing the bartender, announcing, “I need a Bloody Mary popular with American people.” The waitress then returned to the trainer: “Here is your American Bloody Mary.” Breaking out of the roles, the trainer addressed the room full of trainees, pointing out, first, that the waitress should have noticed and responded to the distress registered on his face upon receiving the drink. Next, instead of insisting that the drink served was a Beijing-style Bloody Mary, she should have asked the guest how he preferred his Bloody Mary mixed. He concluded, “Where a person is from has nothing to do with a Bloody Mary. A Bloody Mary is a Bloody Mary, right?” Asking workers to identify with customers’ expectations and experiences, he queried, “So in this situation how would you feel if you were the guest?” The waitress’s responses are typical of a ser vice worker in the Mao era, when goods and ser vices were scarce and customers were expected to accommodate themselves to goods that were available without making special requests.9 The training program ties the acquisition of soft skills to employees’ ability to craft a strong sense of individuality. Foucault describes the individuating dimension of the modern organization: “Each individual has his own place and each place its individual” (1979: 143). The construction of a self that resides in an isolated site of consciousness, and is taken as a unit apart from its relations to and dependence on others, is an organizational prerequisite for assessing, comparing, and exhorting individual workers to compete (Foucault 1979). Panoptic surveillance exercised through the hotel’s security cameras also takes the object of observation as the individual, an individual that self-scrutinizes her own adherence to organizational rules in light of potential surveillance at any time (Foucault 1979). Individualism is further enforced physically; managers prohibit workers from walking arm in arm or hand in hand throughout the hotel, as is frequently practiced by same-sex friends in other workplaces and in public areas. Individualism, the notion that an independent, autonomous self is society’s primary unit, is a frequent theme throughout the training

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process. Managers suggest that the hotel is a site for workers to discover, articulate, and realize their individuality, an individuality that is ultimately expressed through their ser vice achievements. Workers are thus taught to view creative and proactive customer ser vice as a vehicle for the expression of their selfhood. One rather momentous training exercise required employees to reflect on the question, “Who am I?” The trainer who posed the question to employees instructed them to contemplate the query as he dimmed the lights and proceeded to play a recording of soft, soothing zither music, presumably to relax the trainees and aid selfreflection. After a few minutes of meditation he asked each trainee for her or his response: Housekeeper: I am a person. I am me. Trainer: Be more concrete. I don’t want answers like “I’m flesh and blood.” Security guard: I’m a worker and citizen. Waitress: I’m a student. Hostess: I’m staff at a hotel.

Clearly rankled by the workers’ insufficiently introspective responses, the training manager implored, “I want you to describe your nature [benzhi], your true self.” The trainer encouraged the trainees to define a sense of self apart from explicit reference to organizational and community affiliations, to depart from identifying the self with a preconstituted group. He enjoined workers instead to assess their unique characteristics, the ways in which each was different from every other. It was clear that the trainees were discomfited by the prospect of sharing personal and unique qualities of the self among a group of relative strangers. This violated a culturally prescribed reluctance to broadcast personal differences among strangers and acquaintances. A long-standing legacy of Chinese Confucianism defines the self as explicitly nested in relationships to categories of others, and these forms of connection are sustained through fulfillment of fairly formalized obligations and semiritualized modes of behavior (Fei et al. 1992: 25). Important strains of this cultural legacy were reinforced by Maoism (Yang 1994). Accordingly, “self” is defined not so much as a set of characteristics that set one apart and make one a unique creation, but rather as attributes and qualities one


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shares with others and through explicit acknowledgment of the types of linkages one maintains with other categories of people (friend, wife, husband, magistrate, father, mother, etc.). New trainees were at a loss to define a self that transcended the immediate contexts of their lives and struggled to describe the self outside a system of classification. In addition, they had little information about how to situate themselves vis-à-vis their fellow workers and trainers. Furthermore, by publicly defining the self outside the normal conventions of social classification (shenfen), new workers risked the possibility of being viewed as inadequately modest.10 Among the lessons workers’ learned about the “self” at the BT was that customers’ self-esteem was a source of profit and that workers were to adapt their own self-expression to customers’ identity needs, prioritizing customers’ self-esteem over their own. Abraham Maslow’s psychology of human fulfillment provided a scientific framing for the hotel’s recognition and care of guests.11 Invoking Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the training manager linked the fulfillment of workers’ basic material needs to the “self-actualization” of customers. During one training session, the local trainer pointed to a wall poster depicting the Maslowian pyramid and expounded: On that chart, we have a pyramid with five levels. The very bottom level is basic needs: food, shelter, water. . . . The next level is belonging. Then there’s self-esteem. . . . Self-esteem is a two-way street—self-respect and respect for others happen at the same time. Why smile? To show respect. [The customer is] spending so much money, you must give him respect. One person’s smile is really powerful. Our profit comes from your smile. One step from there, self-actualization, is to realize your dream. Why do we smile? Why do we communicate? To give guests self-esteem. They are paying for their selfesteem and respect. If we don’t have profits, we don’t have salary. More than 50 percent of that profit comes from your smiles.

Therefore, Maslow’s hierarchy does not so much reveal the path to the trainee’s self-actualization as channel her efforts to fulfill the self-esteem needs of guests in the interest of corporate profitability. Although the language is gender neutral, its implementation produces a gender (and class) hierarchy. Through fulfilling the self-esteem needs of male guests,

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women workers might meet their own basic, material needs. Hence, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs becomes a class and gender hierarchy, with those who can afford it purchasing attention, whereas those struggling to satisfy physiological and security needs produce attention. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is invoked to grasp the motivations of affluent guests. It is also used to better understand how and why employees’ interactive efforts, in fact, produce value for the hotel. The framing connects workers’ production of self-esteem for guest consumption to value and profit, allowing workers to view deferential behavior as rational and selfinterested rather than as an expression of innate inferiority. Messages about the self were also broadcast by a series of motivational posters that papered the walls of the training classroom. The slogans were repeated in Chinese and English: “Action speaks louder than words”; “For things to change I must change first”; “It’s not what you say it’s how you said [sic] creates power”; “Listening is the chance to build relationships”; “I am responsible for my communication results”; and “Your potential is greater than what you think.” These posters draw on the same rhetorical medium used in the Mao era to exhort workers, but with different messages. One theme common to all the catchphrases is that the individual exerts profound influence over interaction and that the ultimate responsibility for interaction outcomes lies with the individual self. Furthermore, insofar as they suggest that the self has substantial influence in directing interactive outcomes, the phrases convey a distinctly American message about the unlimited potential of the individual self. The efforts to make workers identify with customers are accompanied by direct attempts to remake workers’ bodies to appeal to the hotel’s clientele. Management conveyed new repertoires of femininity through bodily training that took place first in classroom training sessions and then continued, often informally, on the ser vice floor as well as through evaluations. At the beginning of each work shift, female workers line up in military fashion in their respective departments, standing at attention as middle managers inspect their appearance, scrutinizing their fingernails and makeup. This is a routine occasion for managers to incite staff to smile, to make eye contact with customers, and to enact a


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feminine comportment, sometimes pointing out particular workers who “walk like men” (i.e., rocking back and forth). The employee handbook specifies exacting procedures for greeting guests: All associates initiate guest greeting by non-verbal acknowledgement at ten feet, and verbal acknowledgement at five feet. All associates relate to guests with a sense of recognition through the use of guest name or other verbal and non-verbal techniques.

Managers reference the greeting rules when encouraging workers to smile and engage customers, although some recognized the absurdity of such precise interactive dictates. The café manager explained to his staff of waitresses and hostesses, “I don’t expect you to smile or nod from exactly ten feet. . . . I’m not going to say, ‘Hey, Leirong, you greeted that guest at six feet away so you’re fired. The point is, don’t ignore guests. Make eye contact, smile, and be friendly.” Staff members must conform to the class and cultural expectations of their international guests in a number of ways. Frontline workers are required to adopt English names and use these names exclusively when working. Workers must use sophisticated English phrasing when addressing customers, such as “I do apologize, sir” instead of “I’m sorry,” or “It’s my pleasure” instead of “You’re welcome,” or “Good evening” to replace “Hello” or the unforgivably casual “Hi.” Employees must also adapt their bodies to clients’ aesthetic and behavioral standards. The employee handbook prescribes thorough regulation of workers’ bodies in public areas of ser vice to achieve guest standards: “Do not lean or squat, do not place hands in your pockets, do not pick your nose, do not talk loudly or shout, do not hold hands, do not clear your throat, do not scratch any part of your body.” The handbook sets specified parameters for standards of appearance. The topic of women’s hair merits nineteen handbook guidelines. Women’s fingernails are not to exceed “.5 centimeters beyond the fingertip.” Earrings are not to be larger than 1.5 centimeters. Watches must be of a “conservative style.” Makeup should “create a natural appearance.” Lip liner, tattoos, and second earrings are prohibited. Shoes are to be soft soled so workers may tread quietly among the guests. Lectures by the personnel department delve into personal points of hygiene, specifying appropriate underwear,

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how often to change socks, how to avoid dandruff, and how to brush one’s teeth. Managers invoke these rules on the ser vice floor. Reciting the hotel’s promise to provide each guest with an “unforgettable experience,” the personnel manager lectured staff: “Can that unforgettable experience be a negative one? Is that possible? Yes. If someone comes to you with bad body odor or bad breath, or hair dyed yellow color, these are unforgettable experiences but negative ones.” Another manager chastised a worker: “What is on your lips? It looks like you just smeared chocolate on your lips. That stuff is not allowed. Go to the locker room and make your lips look normal.” Workers are also trained to make interactive gestures that feel familiar to their guests, such as making direct eye contact with customers. But looking directly at the customer is frequently uncomfortable for many of the young women, who are socialized to deliberately avoid eye contact with men. Foremost, trainers teach employees when and how to smile. In biannual evaluations managers appraise employees’ soft skills. As part of the evaluation process, managers must convene a private meeting with each worker to discuss her or his labor performance. Observing these evaluations presented an opportunity to witness managers’ continuing attempts to cultivate the feminine grace of their female employees. The local Chinese managers, themselves schooled in Western hotel service, deconstruct the techniques of emphasized femininity from a local vantage point. For example, at the conclusion of a cocktail waitress’s evaluation, the lobby bar manager proclaimed, “Your biggest weakness is that you don’t smile, and you don’t make eye contact with customers.” An assistant manager’s criticism of a waitress’s reluctance to smile proved to be typical: Your biggest problem is that you don’t smile enough. I am not saying that you have to smile all the time. But if you have eye contact with a guest, then you have to smile. Of course, don’t always smile. If they have a complaint, don’t smile. You should listen to the guest attentively and try to think about how to use your smile flexibly. Your smile is a tool.

Smiling at strangers is not a long-standing habit or reflex for workers; they require tutoring to learn when, where, and how to produce a smile so as to create an effect of comfort and familiarity for customers. In the


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course of evaluating a hostess, the Western café’s assistant manager linked disappointing profits to the inadequate deployment of her feminine charms: You are the hostess because you are pretty. But it won’t do much good if you don’t smile. Patrons won’t want to come in if they see you like that from the outside. . . . I need to surpass the other departments. . . . We have to compare our gross income with the amount of money that we invested at the end of year. So we need the hostess to attract guests. A beautiful smile is a good start. Also you should take the initiative to speak with the guests. When they are at the door, greet them. You can ask them if they want to dine here.

One method managers use to motivate workers to exhibit feminine gentility and gregariousness is to tie these characteristics to a norm of presumed innate femininity. The following commentary by a manager was typical: If you don’t refine your ser vice, you’ll never improve. Think about it— does it have to do with your personality? You do your work quickly, but you need a kind of softness, especially as a girl. You need to smile more, especially as a girl. You can smile away the guests’ problems.

Another waitress, Lanfang, was scolded in her evaluation by a male manager of the Chinese restaurant, who said: You don’t always maintain a good image. A girl, think about how it looks when you yawn. You should consider your image. Have you done a good job with smiling to the guests? . . . In these two months, I’ve seen you talking to guests without any facial expression. It’s a habitual problem. You can’t even feel it when you frown. When guests ask for something, you just frown when we don’t have the item. . . . You should look within to find the problem. You should [also] be aware of the way you stand, and the impression that you give.

Bodily expressions are to be aligned with the sex of the body. For women, that means avoiding gestures like frowning or yawning, which may displease others. Failure in these modes of expression is a failure of feminin-

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ity. Managers sometimes parody workers’ gestures to prompt reflection on how facial expressions affect others. At an evaluation, the male manager of the hotel’s Chinese restaurant asked a female employee to stroll in front of him. Accusing her of swaggering back and forth like a man, he personally demonstrated how to walk like a “lady,” pointing out the slight sway of his hips, his upright neck and shoulders, and his tightropetreading gait. The same manager imitated another worker: “Sometimes guests come in and you just stand there, looking down, like this.” He stared at the ground sullenly. The manager also complained of her yawning at work, which he imitated by stretching his mouth wide open. He then said, “When guests order, sometimes you furrow your brow and tilt your head like this.” Another worker subjected to evaluation failed on all counts. After she left the evaluation room, one manager complained to another: She has no feeling; she is too severe. The quantity of work she performs isn’t bad. She knows how to talk, but she doesn’t really do her makeup well. And there’s a problem with her smile. She should learn how to interact with guests. Also [when she directs customers] she points like this [points index finger, which workers were instructed to avoid].

I found this type of commentary on worker behavior to be incessant. I also observed that male and female workers were subjected to managerial assessment based on divergent standards in the evaluation processes. Management praised male employees for their physical labor in every evaluation that I observed. For example, the assistant manager of the BT’s Chinese restaurant exalted men’s physical labor: “The men’s work is much more arduous because they usually have to move things like furniture, tables, and so forth.” A set of restaurant managers reviewing completed staff evaluations concluded: “The boys all work very hard; they can do a lot of work.” This valorizing of physical labor can, in part, be traced to men’s dominance in heavy industry versus women’s more prevalent role in light industry in the Mao era (Naughton 1997). Manual labor appears to these managers as an obvious, quantifiable form of work, prized in the Mao era. In contrast, managers hold female frontline workers to a set of interactive standards


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that pivot on their ability to display appropriate emotions and bodily gestures. In other words, women workers are assessed based on how well they embody emphasized femininity. Although managers clearly value soft skills, they are vaguely defined.12 Official evaluation sheets contain no categories explicitly recognizing these skills. The only point of evaluation on the BT’s performance review that explicitly identifies interactive skills is “attitude and cooperation,” defined on the form as “human relations skills and willingness to work with others.” Managers adapt other formal categories of performance, such as “initiative,” “industry,” and “personal appearance,” to assess women’s frontline skills. But overall, because female workers are expected to perform soft skills, they tend to be more harshly evaluated relative to male workers, whose tasks easily translate into points on the official evaluation forms. This bias translates into slightly higher wages for male employees. When I queried managers why women were assigned to interactive labor serving guests, I received a consistent response, typified by that of the manager of the lobby cocktail bar: “Women are weaker and can’t move tables and boxes of liquor from the storage room to the bar.” Managers view women’s labor as residual: women are assigned interactive labor because they presumably lack the physical ability to handle other types of labor. In contrast, men who are hired to perform manual labor, such as delivering food to tables, setting up banquet rooms, busing tables, or patrolling the lobby as security guards, are not evaluated based on their expressive competencies. Women are rarely given the opportunity to attempt to lift boxes or move tables; to be an appropriate woman worker is to lack strength. Of course, it is also clear that managers assign women to frontline jobs because they appeal to male clientele. Although women workers are selected for their youth and allure, they also undergo a considerable transformation at the hands of the BT’s management. These women are schooled in new forms feminine deference that appeal to the tastes of a male transnational business class. Their bodily movements, gestures, expressions, and turns of phrase become potential vehicles of communication with the guest, designed to reflect status upon customers. Yet, however thoroughly workers’ bodily dispositions are retrained to appeal to the BT’s Western male clientele, these new bodily orientations are

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inevitably filtered through employees’ own preexisting gender and class dispositions.

On the Ser vice Floor: Embeddedness in Practical Gender and Class Schemata Despite conceiving of the neophyte ser vice workers as tabulae rasae, managers could not fully supplant their employees’ preexisting habits, orientations, interpretations, and routines of interaction. Despite attempts to choreograph interactions, managers are unable to predict how every interaction will unfold. Therefore, it is incumbent upon workers to extemporize. Workers invent their own solutions to ser vice dilemmas, combining workplace rules and interactive repertoires they bring into the hotel from their working-class worlds. In the process, I discovered, workers mend the gap between their own class predispositions and the world of affluence they encounter at work, knitting emphasized femininity with a cultural schema of “face-giving” as well as a pedagogical approach to ser vice. Through these interactive solutions, workers create distance between themselves and customers and thereby add another layer of virtualness to the service-floor execution of virtual personalism. As we have seen, trainers teach each worker to tailor her activity to individual guest likes and dislikes. In practice, the intensity of customer interactions and attention varies by department and ser vice. Room cleaners, for example, interact indirectly with customers during turndown ser vice; they notice and record the placement of each guest’s TV remote, wastebasket, and razor. This allows subsequent workers to put these items in the customers’ accustomed location upon each visit. As I watched Chunhua race around a guest room changing sheets, vacuuming, and scrubbing the bathroom, she explained the complexity of her job. “Not only do we need to clean each room thoroughly, but we have to keep track of how the guest lives, where he likes his toothbrush placed, if he ate more grapefruit than apples, if he moves things around like the desk chair, or the coffee table here. We need to adapt to these things.” Hostesses and cocktail and restaurant waitresses have more intense customer interaction, memorizing names and titles of each guest, their partners, and their children. Limei, a waitress at the hotel’s Western café, described her


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tasks: “Before the shift we are given a list of guests and their room numbers. If we don’t recognize them, then we use their room number to retrieve their name, but if we can we should know them. Once I know the guest’s name I can find out what he likes to eat for breakfast from his record.” If a customer looks confused or disoriented, workers often resolve the problem before he utters a word. A customer bobbing his head or craning his neck produces a server with the desired item: a missing spoon, extra cream, or more water. When a customer drops his napkin, a new one appears immediately. Shihong, another waitress at the Western café, waxed rather poetic about these skills: “We scan the room for certain kinds of body language so we can read the guest and understand the needs and desires of the guest.” Workers also describe the anxiety produced by being thrown into an alien luxury environment, surrounded by the appraising eyes of managers, customers, and security staff behind surveillance cameras. Giving voice to these reactions, Limei recalled, “When I first saw the restaurant . . . I didn’t dare touch a thing: the cups are crystal, the ashtrays are crystal, the cutlery is silver. . . . I felt ner vous. I didn’t want to go anywhere in the hotel. I feared I would do something wrong.” Accustomed to living in small apartments and courtyard homes, most staff members had never before entered a luxury hotel or encountered Westerners. Sheer intimidation compelled adoption of behaviors adapted to the context. A 17-year-old waitress who adopted the English name Laurie joined me at a café near the hotel to talk to me about her work. She had only three months of experience at the BT and explained, If you do something awkwardly, then that will form [the guests’] impression of you. For example, if you take a guest a cup of coffee in a cultured way, then everyone will think this young girl is all right. But if you are flustered— “Just to look at her you can tell she’s afraid and ner vous . . . that girl can’t carry things”—you’ll feel uneasy.

Interactive workers are acutely aware that even subtle gestures might invite appraisal and even discomfort on the part of customers and managers. Compounding the sense of disorientation, women workers have very little opportunity to placate the occasional disgruntled customer with

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complimentary ser vices. Even though management designated staff “managers on the floor” and paid ample lip ser vice to worker empowerment, workers were to rely on their soft skills to appease customers. Unlike other luxury hotels, which allow staff to spend up to US$2,000 to compensate dissatisfied guests (Partlow 1993), the BT allows its staff members little discretion to offer restitution. Frustrated, Shihong complained, “We need a manager’s approval even to give the customer a complimentary soft drink!” At times workers police the boundaries between appropriate feminine and masculine work tasks, suggesting that they accept and even internalize the feminine disposition inculcated at work. The point is illustrated by the case of the sole female security guard. She is a highly trained martial arts expert and works alongside twenty-nine male security guards, wearing the same sharp, grey suit, performing the same work, rotating surveillance posts throughout the hotel. She complained to me that frequently her male coworkers asked if she wanted a male replacement, concerned that she might be fatigued from long hours of standing guard. Interestingly, there is little concern for the fatigue of hostesses or waitresses, who stand even more hours than do security guards, whose post rotations allow them to sit two to three hours a day. Her female colleagues also approach her on numerous occasions asking why she would persist in performing “men’s work.” She lamented: People feel it’s strange that I’m a woman doing this work. My fellow staff members tell me I should be a waitress and ask me why I’m doing this work. One or two of these questions I can take, but everyone asks me, everyone. I always feel that they feel perhaps that women are inappropriate for this kind of work. Or they wonder why is a woman doing the same job as a man. I feel they discriminate against me. They don’t admire that I am able to do this work.

Even though the female security guard may help to open this occupation to women, her female colleagues socially sanctioned her for performing the job. While workers policed the boundaries of gender on the job, they also used the package of bodily and ser vice competencies acquired at work to enact limited authority over customers. I found they adopted a


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pedagogical approach to ser vice that is linked to the emphasized femininity acquired in training. A 20-year-old female butler, Shaorong, recalled, “When I was trained as a butler, [I learned that] a gentleman is a gentleman, and a lady is a lady. So . . . I feel more sophisticated than before.” One evening when I was observing Wenqian, who worked as a cocktail waitress in the lobby bar, she took a moment out to reflect on her work. As we sat down, her stocking-clad right leg was inevitably exposed all the way up to the thigh by the long incision in her traditional Chinese qipao. She immediately pulled the gap closed and offered this example: “Today, there was a guest who seemed rich. He made a mess . . . cigarettes everywhere. I put a clean ashtray in front of him, so that he knows. It’s very subtle.” Many workers subtly enforced etiquette among customers, tactically using feminine charm in the process. A cocktail waitress’s polite disdain for customers epitomized the strategic utilization of femininity: “The quality of the guest’s manner doesn’t have anything to do with me. . . . I try to teach them through my smile, so that they can improve their breeding.” A waitress in the hotel’s Italian restaurant, who adopted the English name Anne, deployed a conception of chivalry in responding to a bill complaint: “I said, there is such a pretty lady having dinner with you, you care about the expense?” Shimei, a cocktail waitress in the Skylounge, smiled demurely, responding to a customer’s request for a date with “May I bring my boyfriend?” Through their class-inflected feminine sophistication, some workers mildly discipline customers. Other workers described gently guiding customers who order unfamiliar foods and fumble with chopsticks in the hotel’s Chinese restaurant. To the extent that customization of ser vice preempted customer requests and demands, workers embraced it. Workers’ sense of dignity is best maintained when customers do not vocalize requests, and it is frequently undermined when they do. Workers experience customers’ vocalization of requests as a stinging public reminder of their server status. A 21-year-old hostess, Xiaochun, bemoaned the occasional guest who barked orders: “It’s like old times: landlords hollering at the servants.” These women workers, as well as female butlers, chafed at being called “Miss” (xiaojie),13 a term that commonly denotes ser vice workers but is also a euphemism for “prostitute.” Even though the BT uses its security

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personnel to prevent sex workers and pimps from working at the hotel and propositioning guests, workers find the term xiaojie insulting. Preemption of requests allows workers to avoid demeaning orders from customers and the toxic stigma of being called “xiaojie” in public. A cafe waitress describing her emancipation from symbolic subservience recalled, “The third day . . . I bring [the guest] tea before he asks. He doesn’t need to say a thing!” When waitresses preempt guest requests, they retain a sense of control over the ser vice relationship. Workers also reinterpreted and adjusted formal ser vice protocols to conform to their own ethics of interaction. Employees of the BT tended to categorize most of the soft-skill competencies acquired at the hotel as acts of face-giving. “Giving face” refers to a conferral of status and honor involving semiritualized, culturally encoded acts of deference. Face-giving is a hierarchical model of interaction; by giving face, one enacts deference (Yang 2002). Without exception, the interactive workers I interviewed told me that giving face was a core component of their work. Memorizing titles and names and catering to customer preferences are interpreted by workers as forms of face-giving. Workers execute these protocols with a high level of formality. A waitress described how her ability to serve a guest his usual order without prompting impresses friends and acquaintances: This man . . . doesn’t need to say a thing; we bring him an ashtray, a glass of Qingdao. They then prepare his usual dish, saffron risotto; the information is stored on the computer . . . for the friends he brings, this gives him face: “Look at me, I come to this five-star restaurant and everyone recognizes me.”

For workers, viewing customized service as giving face allowed them to fit their acts of deference into a rational calculus of interaction that would supplant or at least ameliorate a sense of subservience. As one staff member explained, “If I offer guests enough face, they will feel that coming here is worth the price.” A female butler reckoned that a portion of the proceeds went directly into her paycheck: “If the guest pays 100 yuan, this is 1 fen14 of my own salary, so giving him face is very important.” Unlike Hochschild’s notion of emotion work, then, giving face is not conditioned by an underlying notion of individual authenticity. Workers do not conceive of giving face as offering care or nurture. Rather, they tend to view it as a method of tapping into customers’ wealth by endowing


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them with status through the use of social protocols that elaborate hierarchies using speech, comportment, and facial expression. Not only does this calculus help workers to reinterpret ser vice deference as rationally self-interested, strategic, and profitable (rather than an expression of subservience), but also, by giving face, the worker positions herself as an agent in the construction of customer status and, at the same time, creates distance from the customer. Face-giving can involve extreme displays of deference, but because these displays are semiritualized, they help to keep customers at arm’s length and maintain for workers a sphere of interactive autonomy. When compared to work contexts in the United States, the ideology of giving face reflects a fundamentally different approach to ser vice. In the United States, workers and customers share a relatively democratic model of worker-customer relations, with workers tending to strive to be authentic (Hochschild 1983; Sherman 2007). Face-giving elaborates status differences that reinforce social inequality between customers and workers. But the status boundaries that are maintained by face-giving also place certain limits on interactions, preserving a polite social distance that prevents guests from inquiring into workers’ private lives and eliminating expectations for “democratic,” informal interaction. The difference is illustrated in Sherman’s study of two U.S. luxury hotels. She explains, “Guests decided what the tone of their interaction with workers would be, and workers had to respond politely no matter how the guests treated them” (Sherman 2007: 192). She also found that inequalities between customers and workers are mitigated by generous tipping and gift giving by affluent customers (Sherman 2007). But in China, tipping is irregularly practiced and was, until very recently, an illegal activity. In contrast to the U.S. luxury settings where workerguest distance was bridged, at the BT distance between customers and workers is maintained by face-giving, which, in principal, gives the employees some ability to set limits on the tone of interaction, thus constraining the guests’ power to set the tone. Face-giving is a strategy of managing inequality by increasing distance rather than narrowing it. Face-giving fosters social hierarchy, but it also suggests that the worker, not the customer, is the agent within the social interaction. For example, in their early employment, most staff members were initially

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reluctant to apologize when customers complained because they feared that it would be taken as an admission of responsibility for which they might be penalized. By reinterpreting contrition as face-giving, employees shifted the focus of the interaction from any mistakes they may have made to their ability to manufacture customer status. Xianli, a cocktail waitress in the lobby bar, announced with a dismissive wave of her hand, “Apologizing doesn’t mean anything. I just do it to make the guest feel right and important. At first I was afraid to apologize, but now I realize it’s just empty language to make the guest feel powerful.” By giving face, workers suggest that they produce rather than recognize customer status. Because the BT workers are not concerned about authenticity in interactions, they have greater scope to interact strategically, to exploit their own construction of customer status and explicitly acknowledge the centrality of their status giving to revenue. Through the discourse of face, workers position themselves as potential bearers of the power to recognize and manufacture customers’ status. Despite immersion in customer needs, workers make virtual personalism even more virtual by distancing themselves from customers through the formalities of face-giving. In the process, they carve out a small space of interactive autonomy. Conceiving of face-giving gestures as means to access the wealth of the customer therefore moderated interactive inequalities, especially when workers felt they were directly benefiting from customer expenditure through the redistribution of profits via bonuses and perquisites. Women workers braid their own local classand culture-specific dispositions into the imported ser vice repertoires they enact so as to ultimately minimize indignities. By using emphasized femininity strategically while combining it with face-giving, workers appropriated and tempered ser vice protocols, both producing and coping with stark service-floor inequalities.

Conclusion As an important node in the global network of cities, Beijing draws the global patriciate. At the Beijing Transluxury Hotel, workers offer customized ser vices and attend to the discriminating tastes of this predominately male and Western market of consumers. Virtual personalism is the


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set of labor practices that produces customization. Rather than scripting worker behaviors, virtual personalism is enabled by choreographing the ser vice of workers, who are subjected to their employer’s attempt to transform them (Leidner 1993) through ongoing training that inculcates highly individualistic and feminized norms of behavior. Th is training mobilizes norms associated with emphasized femininity, and women workers learn customization as a set of feminine embodied practices. Their production of personal ser vice relies more on their interaction with computer databases that record customer preferences than on their own personally accumulated knowledge of customers. Although they are charged to take note of newly discovered customer preferences, the objective is not to cultivate a personal relationship between customers and workers, but to accumulate data on the customers that can be deployed by any worker to order to deepen the customers’ relationship with the firm. This means that workers are highly replaceable; any worker can provide ser vices tailored to the customers’ preferences. Even though the Beijing Transluxury offers ser vices comparable to those of other five-star hotels throughout the world, the organization of labor practices is rooted in local institutions and workers’ local gender and class schemata. The majority shareholder, a high-ranking central ministry of the People’s Republic of China, introduced select socialistera employment legacies, which were modified for the contemporary labor market. As a result, workers enjoy substantial benefits and an organizational culture that instills a semblance of community. The workplace community creates a context in which middle managers offer young women ser vice workers careful and often personal instruction on the subtle bodily arts of femininity performed for Western elites, and women workers are for the most part receptive to these new lessons. Women workers also filter global practices using their own norms of face-giving to negotiate the inequalities they confront on the ser vice floor, as they contend with the chasm between their own class backgrounds and the world of wealth they occupy at work. These cultural filters introduce a certain hierarchical distance into relationships with customers. The distancing provides a welcome buffer from guests. These cultural filters of face-giving make virtual personalism all the more “virtual.” Hence, “virtual personalism” refers to the method of providing

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individualized ser vice used by luxury hotels globally, but it also refers to the ways managers and workers reformulate ser vice practices to conform to familiar redistributive labor practices that are a legacy of state socialism and to the modes of sociability that help insulate workers from intimacy with customers. The next chapter focuses on a more complete localization of the Transluxury ser vice model, tracing its importation into a domestic tourist environment in China’s southwest Yunnan Province. This case study reveals the alteration of ser vice protocols at the hands of local managers and workers as the Western ser vice and organizational template moves through space and enters new institutional environs.

3 Virtuous Professionalism Localizing Global Luxury at the Kunming Transluxury Hotel

On the day I participated in the monthly Kunming Transluxury employee birthday party, I listened to a karaoke version of “Small Bird,” a recent hit by Richie, a pop singer from Taiwan. This day’s karaoke performer was a tall young bellman still sporting a round pillbox hat, his white-gloved hands clinging to the microphone. In a voice that was atonal, yet earnest, even passionate at times, he labored at lyrics declaring that he was a small bird, unable to fly high, vulnerable to predators, and lacking even a branch to alight upon. The final line queried whether the future would bring hope. The song captured the somber mood collecting like dark clouds over the employee birthday celebration. The brief party was held in the hotel’s slick Panther nightclub, on the twentythird floor of the hotel. Fatigued from the day’s work, the birthday celebrants sauntered in and sunk into the comfortable lounge chairs that lined the edge of the shining oval black dance floor. A waitress served tall glasses of Coca-Cola over ice to the glum staff as the human resources secretaries passed out personalized cards for each of the fifty-five employees with birthdays that month. Before the karaoke singing, the general manager, Mr. Chun, addressed the group from the dance floor with a microphone, his live image floating above him on a large plasma screen: “I wish you a happy birthday. Th is hotel cares about you. Please consider the hotel as your family.” But in-

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stead of feeling welcomed into a fold of kinship with managers, workers struggled to keep their antipathy toward management in check. Unlike the labor regime of virtual professionalism I found at the Beijing Transluxury, in which workers customize the ser vice product, combining femininity and face-giving in response to customers, young female workers at the Kunming Transluxury (KT) cloaked themselves in professionalism to influence customers’ reaction to them. At the KT, women frontline workers expend equal amounts of interactive effort tending to customers and defending their virtue because the employment context places them at risk of being labeled “immoral” sex workers and “backward” ethnic minorities. In the process, they embrace firmpromoted interactive protocols, which they wield in defense of their respectability. Workers extend and elaborate these protocols to suit their needs for protection against predatory customers as well as managers, who regularly use shame as a form of discipline. “Virtuous professionalism,” therefore, is the shorthand I use to capture both management’s organization of ser vice labor as highly trained and professional sales staff and workers’ own deployment of this professionalism to defend their dignity on the ser vice floor. This set of labor practices is a response to a consumer market of affluent domestic businessmen. It is also embedded in a set of administrative work legacies reproduced by the hotel owners. This chapter examines how the localization of a global corporate ser vice template to appeal to a domestic business class shapes relationships on the ser vice floor among managers, workers, and customers.

Catering to Domestic Elites Housed within a gleaming modernist glass and concrete structure, the KT stands amidst Yunnan’s growing tourist complex. Located in a subtropical region, Kunming is widely known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its temperate climate and perpetually blooming foliage. The Kunming sunshine floods the KT’s cavernous marble lobby through gigantic picture windows. The hotel resembles Beijing’s five-star hotels, save for the paintings and statues that feature abstracted, semi-erotic renderings of ethnic minority women, and the accumulation of shops rented to local vendors purveying ethnic handicrafts, such as wooden


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statues of elephants, Buddhas, and Guanyins, as well as batik cloth sandalwood necklaces and jade trinkets. These items spill out of the vendor areas and encroach upon the open space of the hotel lobby. An advertisement posted on the walls of the hotel’s elevators features a young, blond European woman wrapped in a small towel, luxuriating in the hotel’s sauna. In the local context the immodest photograph broadcasts a clarion message: sex is for sale.1 Reflecting the routine availability of sexual ser vices at the hotel, a manager adopted professional parlance to describe the phenomenon: “Every hotel has this kind of service program [ fuwuxiangmu]—from one-star up to five-star . . . it’s a way to attract guests, because men are all like that; when they go out they want to have a good time.” Kunming is a major tourist destination for domestic travelers seeking an exotic destination with a temperate climate and a dynamic nightlife, generated in part by the city’s reputation as China’s sex-tourism capital. This is an especially popular destination for businessmen from larger cities who want to entertain their clients. To cater to these domestic businessmen, a provincial-level state agency developed the KT, the first five-star hotel complex in the city. The owner declined a costly joint-venture contract with the Galaxy Corporation. Instead, the owner opted to hire Chinese managers directly from a Transluxury hotel in the city of Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi Province. As part of the agreement it developed with the local owners of the Xi’an hotel, the KT recruited fifty managers to work in Kunming, enticing them to the remote province with promotions and raises. By hiring Chinese managers at a fraction of the cost of Western managers, the KT saved substantial resources. As a provincial-level state agency, it had greater difficulty mustering the capital required for a managerial contract with a major hotelier than did the Beijing Transluxury. At the same time, it faced fierce price competition with twenty-two other luxury hotels. This management team severed direct ties with the Galaxy Corporation, while transferring its global brand name, organizational template, and managerial forms to Kunming in the absence of a formal, contractual relationship with the Galaxy Corporation. By domesticating the global hotel brand, the owners reduced costs that would have been incurred from

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expensive managerial fees and wages (paid in U.S. dollars). The savings permits the hotel to offer room rates substantially lower than its competitors’ prices.2 A part of the owner’s business strategy was to recoup the money it lost from low room rates by aggressively promoting sales in its ser vice outlets. The KT is both a lodging and an entertainment venue. The hotel offers a multitude of diversions to its entertainment-seeking clientele, including a high-tech, state-of-the-art bowling alley, mahjong rooms, a karaoke bar, a beauty salon, and a sauna. These types of leisure facilities are not offered at the Beijing Transluxury. Managers train workers to seize every opportunity to promote food, drinks, and other services. Management also organizes escorts and sex workers to entertain patrons. The entertainment ser vices are a crucial part of the KT’s revenue strategy. Even though the KT adopts the organizational structure, work protocols, and brand name of the transnational Transluxury brand, ser vice and labor practices depart remarkably from those at the Beijing Transluxury, where security staff immediately eject any individual suspected of participating in the sex industry. KT managers adapt the Galaxy organizational and ser vice template to a market of domestic business elites. Luxury ser vice environments in many of the nation’s cities are arenas for business partnerships within the context of a resolutely masculine business culture (X. Liu 2002; E. Zhang 2001). As research on business practices in China illustrates, an elaborate banquet or a night out at a karaoke bar or a disco can be just as critical to the success of a business relationship as negotiating agreeable terms of exchange. Building trust through semiritualized entertaining reduces transaction costs in business cooperation in a context of undeveloped contract laws and unreliable courts (Wank 2001). It is common business practice for entrepreneurs, businessmen, and even state officials to patronize establishments that provide the ser vices of sex workers. Anthropologist Mayfair Yang describes this new “guanxi” business culture: No longer are gifts or banquets sufficient in these new guanxi rituals, but a long night sharing the pleasures of masculine heterosexuality and giving


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women’s bodies and sexual ser vices as gifts will cement guanxi better. The night may start with a banquet for the official(s), then the party may proceed to enjoy women at a dancehall, karaoke bar or sauna, to be followed sometimes by the host hiring a prostitute to visit the official in his hotel room. (2002: 466)3

The conspicuous consumption of young women has become a routine component of commercial culture in the country (Hyde 2007). What Yang calls “guanxi rituals” involve substantial relational labor on the part of male patrons and clients. Banquets and entertaining are vehicles for developing loyalty with potential business partners and clients. A common business entertainment practice, karaoke singing in particular features displays of sentiment, including passion, love, and endearment (Gold 1993). These performances conjure sincerity and authenticity that, when performed well, foster affective bonds between business affiliates (see Hsing 1996). Women’s presence as escorts facilitates the exchanges, not only making them a legitimate heterosexual activity but also fostering joviality and sexual titillation. Simply put, the sexual commodification of women oils the machinery of business development in China. Escorts serve as invisible mediators providing the relational glue binding business associates. Nowhere is this clearer than at the KT. At the KT, male clientele partake of escort ser vices in the salon, sauna, and karaoke bar. If they opt for the privacy of their own rooms, they can merely wait for the inevitable phone call offering in-room foot massages, a not-so-subtle invitation for a sexual transaction. In such sexually charged environments, every woman is assumed to have her price. As a result, waitresses, hostesses, housekeepers, and other female frontline workers who are not escorts contend with the symbolic and sometimes physical violence of being viewed and treated by many hotel guests as sex workers (without the benefit of the relatively substantial earnings escorts made). In response, the formal hotel workers at the KT constructed both symbolic boundaries (Lamont 2000) on their bodies to clearly distinguish themselves clearly from prostitutes and escorts. These labor dynamics are embedded in, and exacerbated by, local employment legacies.

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Employment Legacy: Embeddedness in Socialist Labor Recruitment Practices Since the KT’s owner is a provincial-level state agency, its administrative status ranks far lower than that of the ministry controlling the BT. Consequently KT workers have not inherited a legacy of generous welfare benefits comparable to those provided by the BT. Furthermore, to cut costs in the highly competitive and oversupplied market, management minimizes workplace benefits. Mr. Chun, the general manager, articulated this point: “We have very strict cost control here in this market; we need to save money for the owners. Foreign companies lose money for the first two years, not us.” Unlike BT staff members, KT employees do not receive housing subsidies or incentive bonuses, and the hotel charges a substantial monthly fee for medical insurance and social security.4 Staff members do not receive subsidized haircuts, complimentary socks, or cases of consumer goods, as employees do at the BT. The hotel offers no clinic for workers, and management does not proactively promote the familyplanning policy. In this setting, distributing condoms and discussing women workers’ sexual activity would impugn their virtue. Managers at the hotel understood the family-planning policy as prohibiting premarital sexual activity, a sharp divergence from the interpretation of the policy at the BT. According to one manager, “The point is to be sure that staff members are not having sexual relations if they are not married.” Condoms are provided for male clients at the karaoke bar and sauna; they are not distributed to workers. In this sexually predatory environment, premarital sex for women workers is considered immoral behavior. A holiday bonus was distributed for the Spring Festival, but the employees considered the 10 yuan (about US$1) gift worth little more than the red envelope that enclosed it. Taking this pittance as an insult, some staff members tore up their bills in protest. Knowledge that staff members at another Kunming luxury hotel received two months’ salary as a bonus intensified workers’ bitterness toward management. At the same time, workers were universally resentful about the high salaries earned by KT’s executive managers. With regular staff earning US$95–200 per month, the KT’s managers’ monthly income of US$1,000 plus the provision of free housing seemed like exorbitant compensation to staff, even


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though these executive salaries are negligible compared to the annual salaries of expatriate Western managers in Chinese cities, which can range between US$40,000 and US$50,000. The chief vestige of the Mao-era workplace that remained intact at the KT was a system of job-post inheritance (dingti), in which children of workers replaced retiring parents (Perry and Lu 1997). Some 300 of the workers who were originally hired to work at the hotel were children of employees at the owning agency.5 With substantial experience at the Transluxury hotel in Xi’an, the KT executive managers were accustomed to controlling recruitment. They chafed at this internal recruitment because they felt these staff members lacked the requisite skills. The human resources manager described her dilemma: “Since they have a contract we can’t fire them, so we encourage them to quit.” Deep resentment of coworkers hired through parental connections plagued relations between employees and managers. In an interview, a miniskirt-clad cocktail waitress raised her voice a bit and forcefully declared, “Some people don’t rely on their own hard work to get here . . . not like us, who don’t know anyone, and we just rely on ourselves completely.” A hostess described employees who gained employment through connections as “valueless.” At the BT, the extension of Mao-era employment legacies built quite functional and often even amiable relations between managers and workers. At the KT, the extension of a different Mao-era employment legacy undermined any basis for trust and goodwill between managers and workers, while also eroding managerial legitimacy. In response to their waning credibility among workers, managers made frequent reference to their experience in a “real” global hotel (the Xi’an Transluxury) in an economically advanced urban center. In the process of burnishing their own credentials as legitimate global hoteliers, with the same skills as Western managers to operate the hotel, they discredited the competence and discipline of the local workforce.

Staff-Management Relations: Becoming “Ethnic” at the Kunming Transluxury Hotel Despite the hotel’s commercial success, a rift grew between hotel staff members and the extra-provincial managers. In interviews with me,

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workers bitterly complained about “heartless” managers; two broke down crying, vanquished by the indignities they faced from management. On the wall of the men’s room someone had scrawled, “Xi’an management go home.” These managers, frequently called “outsiders” by workers, were blamed for the absence of benefits and perquisites offered to workers at the hotel. The vast wage differential between managers and workers, and the lack of a local or global corporate culture that resonated with workers left managers struggling to establish credibility. To reassert authority they drew on strategies that did little to improve their position. Attempting to overcome divisions of place with local workers, the KT managers sought to create a sense of unity with workers through mobilizing national pride. At nearly every meeting, the general manager reminded staff that the KT was the first locally operated five-star hotel in China, also underscoring the advantages of hiring “local” managers instead of foreign expatriates: Hotels need Chinese managers, not foreigners. We want Chinese to know how to run an international hotel. . . . The foreigners aren’t familiar with the local language, culture, different habits; they don’t know what kind of food locals like. . . . For the price of an expat general manager we can pay eight managers here. . . . China is a developing country and can’t afford high salaries. Foreigners deal differently with employees because they are from a different cultural background. Chinese managers know how to deal with local employees.

But the managers suffered from staff members’ general bias that Western managers were best fit for bringing global ser vice standards to the region. Another way managers attempted to shore up the respect of regular staff members was to position themselves as heroic “agents of modernity” (Lo 2002), sacrificing their homes in a relatively cosmopolitan urban center to introduce their valuable skills and knowledge to the periphery.6 The general manager commented, “We need to bring ser vice industry skills to this area, to help the local economy and the people.” The front desk supervisor revealed the patronizing side of this discourse, complaining about Kunming workers: “The hotels they worked at before were little-star hotels [softens her voice to sound childlike] ‘three star, four star’; they don’t know what it’s like to really work.”


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Managers also drew on a discursive construction of regional and ethnic identity to interpret perceived skill deficits among workers, mapping ethnic differences onto workplace hierarchies (Poster 2007; Yelvington 1995). The vast majority of workers are Han Chinese, but managers nevertheless viewed workers as part of Yunnan’s ethnic minorities by virtue of living in a remote and largely rural province in proximity to large populations of people who are not Han Chinese. Understandings of ethnic differences are not based on biological and phenotypic distinctions, but tend rather to draw on notions of civility and backwardness that correspond respectively to an urban-rural continuum (Camacho 1996). Popular media images circulating throughout the country represent Yunnan as plagued by sexually transmitted diseases (especially AIDS) and a growing trade in heroin; these images reinforced negative stereotypes of locals to outsiders. Managers tended to view ethnic minorities through the lens of evolutionary stage theory (discussed in Chapter 2) and considered these groups (and, by proximity, all Yunnan people) to be less civilized. Managers frequently accused their employees of backwardness and laziness and used an ethnic framework to justify class relations with workers. There was an easy slippage between class, regional, and ethnic difference manifested in managerial attitudes. As Lili, a waitress at the hotel’s Ocean Empress restaurant, expressed, “The managers just equate people from Yunnan with ethnic minorities.” Such comments also betrayed Han Chinese workers’ own mapping of ethnic hierarchies in Yunnan, and resentment surrounded managers’ inability to see the “real” hierarchies and sources of backwardness in the region. One way that managers reinforced ethnic and regional hierarchy was through the notion of “ser vice consciousness.” “Ser vice consciousness” refers to an inbred, organic awareness of a universal set of ser vice standards, a natural sense of etiquette that is tied to the theme of civility. Unlike at the BT, where impediments to workers’ acquisition of new service repertoires were understood to be a problem of their inadequate femininity, at the KT the absence of ser vice skills was attributed to locals’ general backwardness, frequently identified as a consequence of the inherent inferiority of the province’s ethnic minority populations. Managers grumbled about the lack of ser vice consciousness among local workers regularly. A front desk manager complained, “They are loose and

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inattentive. They are not used to competition and don’t have the proper consciousness.” Through the use of the phrase, Xi’an managers naturalized their own ser vice aptitudes, acquired through multiple years of training and work at the Xi’an Transluxury. Not surprisingly, such portrayals merely invited the contempt of local employees. Staff members’ resistance to new policies in the workplace was also construed as an expression of backwardness. For example, workers expected to partake of the customary work arrangements permitting them to return home for a daily two-hour lunch break. When management required workers to remain at work for lunch, workers demanded remuneration for their lunchtime. A manager appealed to what he called “hotel industry logic” thus: “the hotel prohibits staff from wearing uniforms outside the workplace, and one hour is not enough time to change in and out of uniform to return home for lunch.” As a dubious compromise, the personnel department reduced the lunch break to an unpaid one-half hour. Management also labeled as “backward” the above-mentioned automatic recruitment of 300 staff members who were children of employees from the main branch of the owning state agency. To remedy workers’ lack of innate ser vice consciousness, managers used codified punitive measures to enforce good ser vice. The employee handbook meticulously details seventy infractions subject to monetary penalties. Management docks 20 percent of monthly wages for “minor” infractions such as eating in the locker room, using guest entrances, punching the time clock early or late, making loud or inappropriate noises in the hotel, violating hygienic standards, or failing to wear name tags. Workers can be docked 40 to 60 percent of their wages for defying managers’ orders, acting impolitely toward customers, causing guest complaints, or showing slackness in duties. Grave offenses, for which workers are penalized by an 80 percent subtraction of their wages, include altercations with customers, fellow staff members, or management; stealing hotel property; trafficking in prostitution; or any frequent violation of hotel discipline. Such transgressions are recorded in worker dossiers, which follow workers into all new employment throughout their lives. If workers are dismissed for a grave infraction, they lose their 500-yuan (about US$60) deposit, required from all staff. Cashiers who inadvertently take fake credit cards or otherwise do not collect payment are


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themselves responsible for covering the losses, which are deducted from their paychecks. Even in the initial interview process, workers are treated like subordinates who should not call managerial prerogatives into question. During a recruitment session I observed, a manager consulted briefly in private with the vocational school instructor who brought her graduating students to the hotel to be considered for jobs. The manager then scrutinized the physical appearance of each candidate and finally selected twenty employees. The recruiter did not speak to job candidates individually, and the process of hiring twenty new employees lasted less than fifteen minutes. When the final pool of candidates was selected, the manager asked them collectively if they would to devote themselves to the hotel and “eat bitterness” (chiku) as part of their work. They responded affirmatively in unison. Later, the manager explained to me that the hotel relies upon the recommendation of the vocational school instructor, who has ample time to witness students’ performance and attitude. Management augments harsh penalties with a severe supervisory style that relies on shaming and humiliating workers. A large display at the entrance to the KT workers’ canteen publicly chastised employees for the theft of small guest amenities. Arrayed on a table were items apprehended by security when searching workers’ lockers, including bottles of creams and conditioners, matchbooks, soaps, plastic bags, and two rolls of hotel wallpaper. Over the table a large sign read, “Employees are not to take items from the hotel. . . . We hate these actions. They are against the rules.” At daily preshift meetings, middle managers castigate workers publicly for mistakes, such as diverting customer requests to other departments rather than responding directly to them. In preshift meetings, managers can become vicious and severe. A management trainee from Finland had been attending these meetings for close to one year and commented to me: “The manager lectures everyone about mistakes very severely, and it is obvious that it’s quite humiliating for the person who made the mistake. The workers usually hold their head down and look really embarrassed. The staff members really hate these meetings.” During one such preshift meeting at the hotel’s Chinese restaurant, I observed the manager

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praise one worker and scold another: “Li sold the most steamed bird’s nest last night. Tremendous. Everyone should follow her example, especially Ming, who did not sell a single featured entrée. This is the third night you performed poorly? It’s an embarrassment.” The other workers, arrayed around the room in their elegant green and red satin embroidered dresses, looked down or away in anguish. A 20-year-old housekeeping clerk, Yanyu, described the cascade of criticism set into motion for having lost an article of customer clothing: “I was criticized by our manager and the housekeeping manager and two supervisors all in one day.” Another worker complained, “[Managers] can just talk to staff; there’s no need to tell them off in a big meeting.” A 19-year-old female bartending trainee, Xiaowen, conveyed her frustration: “[The supervisor] stands behind me constantly criticizing me. When I make mistakes he tells me in front of others.” A hostess, Jiaying, 22 years old, interpreted her assignment to the post of “doorman” as a form of punishment through public humiliation, because she was the only woman working in this job. She recounts, “Guests asked me what I was doing at the door; shouldn’t men be opening doors for women? Shouldn’t ladies come first?” She reported crying regularly after work, humiliated by the forced gender-boundary crossing that debased her sense of womanhood. In sum, KT management tried but failed to restore credibility among workers by appealing to shared nationality. Another discourse that was intended to buttress their authority contradicted this message by pointing to putatively inherent differences between themselves and Yunnan people. In practice, managers tended to act as aloof disciplinarians, enforcing an array of monetary penalties, as well as shaming workers through the frequent use of ethnocentric epithets. Workers responded to the harsh managerial discipline by adopting a range of professional competencies, including learning techniques to promote ser vice products among customers.

Training to Sell Customer ser vice at the KT focuses on selling hotel ser vices to guests, who have often negotiated relatively low-cost accommodation.


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The hotel seeks to recoup this loss with ser vices and consumption. Instead of immersing in customer preferences, frontline workers invested their energy in developing nuanced knowledge of the food and ser vices provided by the hotel’s outlets and in mastering aggressive, suggestive sales techniques designed by management to mine client expense accounts. Upon asking employees to describe their jobs, virtually every staff member responded with some variant of Yundan’s account: “My job is to promote the products of the restaurant, especially the featured items.” A 21-year-old cocktail waitress, Cuifen, answered, “The most important part of the work here is to promote the alcoholic beverages and snacks.” Thus, in contrast to ser vice at the BT, the KT ser vice regime emphasized knowledge of the product over knowledge of the guest. The KT’s cost-cutting efforts prohibit investment in a computer network with PCs on each floor, which are required at the BT to record customer preferences. At the KT, staff training emphasized the use of fine-grained product knowledge to maximize customer expenditures. Management required staff to spend at least two hours in training each week reviewing procedures and developing familiarity with their outlet’s products. The daily preshift meetings at the restaurants involved role-playing, as managers asked waitresses to recite in mouthwatering detail the manifold ingredients and style of preparation of the gourmet dishes served on the menu. During one role-playing session the supervisor asked about an extensive number of menu items, moving through each at a rapid clip, demanding details about flavoring and cooking method, all of which the waitress answered completely and confidently. The supervisor also asked for recommendations, which the waitress offered without flinching. Like a drill instructor, the supervisor barked requests and questions gruffly while the waitress answered with little emotion or expression in her voice. During these daily exercises managers did not comment on workers’ style of delivery, facial expression, or comportment. A supervisor in the Chinese restaurant explained, “I ask how various different dishes are made, vegetables, which types you blanch, which you stir-fry, how you cook them to retain their color, and so on.” Waitresses learned the names, origins, texture, density, and flavor of the rare sea life in the nine large tanks where the fresh stock of fish on the menu are displayed. Cocktail

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waitresses memorized the descriptions, as well as the English and Chinese names, of the dozens of Western beverages purveyed in the nightclub and lounges. Each night they are to promote drink and appetizer specials. A mantra of preshift meetings in the cocktail lounge was, “Before you do anything else, ask them to try the featured drinks.” Unlike at the BT, appearance and hygiene are not intensive sites of managerial intervention. For instance, there is no minimum height requirement. The employee handbook does not specify guidelines for appearance. Nevertheless, workers engage in self-surveillance to ensure their physical and moral distinction from escorts working at the hotel. Furthermore, I found that women workers use the professionalism inculcated by managers as a shield to defend themselves against the indignities of serving customers who readily sexualize them. At the KT, staffmanagement relations are infused with vitriol, as managers regularly penalize and shame female workers. These workers adopt a shield of professionalism to signal to customers and managers that their bodies are modern and virtuous, rather than “uncivilized” and “for sale.”

Staff- Customer Relations: Embedding Work in Local Norms of Virtue At the KT, women workers’ respectability is perpetually at risk. Faced with a double indictment of “backwardness” by managers and sexual promiscuity by customers, staff members wield professionalism to assert their sophistication and de-emphasize their sexuality. I term this set of labor practices, in which management inculcates professionalism and workers embrace it to defend their respectability, “virtuous professionalism.” The omnipresence of escorts, profitable precisely for their transgression of local norms of feminine virtue and legal codes, creates an imperative for employees not only to signal that their bodies are not for sale in order to stave off customer predations but also to accomplish appointed tasks. Though not formally attached to the hotel, escorts are recruited through informal channels to work in the sauna and karaoke bar. They enter the hotel as guests and frequent public locations. Their presence profoundly alters the character of work for formal frontline female staff, who are routinely misrecognized by customers as sex workers.


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In response to the routine misrecognition, I found, formal sector ser vice workers overtly adopted a stylized professionalism that de-emphasizes sexuality in order to avoid harassment at work. At the BT, workers’ primary concern was to overcome class insecurity to function in the luxury hotel environment. At the KT, workers fretted over very different concerns. They reported uncomfortable, frightening, or even dangerous encounters with guests that threatened their respectability and even physical safety. A female restaurant supervisor, Huiqing voiced the general complaint: “[Guests] look down us. . . . They feel that it’s best for girls to be working in a factory or a school, or to be a nurse. . . . They imagine the ser vice sector . . . is illicit and related to ‘that’ type of work.” A midlevel supervisor explained: In the restaurant we have guests who get drunk and then don’t pay the bill. Or guests will get into fights. When guests get drunk they just completely forget their sense of propriety. This often happens in the nightclub. It’s frightening. When I was cross training there, I was the supervisor. I just called for others to help; I didn’t dare move. A guest threw a glass and there was water all over the place. This is fairly common in the nightclub. It’s impossible to control the guests. Sometimes they start fighting with the friends they came with.

The tony Panther nightclub, located on the top floor of the hotel, is one entertainment site where customers engage escorts.7 Management invites two “mamasan” to organize sex workers at the nightclub.8 These escorts are officially working for the mamasan; they are not formal hotel staff members. They enter the hotel through the front doors as guests and do not wear hotel uniforms. As guests enter the Panther Lounge from the elevator, two hostesses (formal workers) wearing slinky black gowns with short red capes, reminiscent of Little Red Riding Hood, greet them. Behind the the hostesses glows a sign displaying silhouettes of women with disproportionate chests, their arms raised, seemingly in ecstasy. The mamasan who organize them pay “sanitation fees” of 300 yuan (US$37.50) per month to the hotel and occasionally purchase cigarettes for managers and employees. Sex work is illegal in China, and the hostesses told me they were required to keep a vigilant lookout for police. Managers and staff obliquely referred to special arrangements the

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hotel had worked out with the public security bureau.9 Nevertheless, one evening when I was drinking at the club, I watched one of the hostesses ner vously shepherd all the escorts into the bathroom, where they crowded around the sinks and waited until the police departed. The nightclub houses a large public entertainment area and twenty private karaoke rooms furnished like living rooms, with comfortable velvet couches and coffee tables. Before the guests arrive, the escorts, dressed in elaborate and formfitting finery, file into the waiting rooms of the karaoke lounge. Known as “sanpei” (three accompaniments), these escorts entertain clients by chatting, singing, and drinking with them. Many negotiate sexual ser vices privately with customers. These escorts come from a variety of backgrounds and include young laid-off workers, teachers, recent high school graduates, and migrants from rural areas. At the KT, I learned that most had work experience as employees in shops and restaurants. They were from places as far-flung as Guangdong, Sichuan, Tianjin, and Xinjiang To my knowledge, none of the formal workers at the KT moved into work as escorts. But if they had, they would have likely practiced escorting at another hotel, or in another city, in order to protect their reputations. Escorts preferred working outside of their hometowns so that friends and family would not discover their profession. They were concerned about maintaining a sense of feminine virtue among their peers and kin. Escort work is one of the only jobs that allow women from working-class backgrounds to make a wage that supports an independent and comfortable lifestyle. Escorts earn substantially more money than the average ser vice worker, often affording their own apartments and expensive clothing, and taking taxis from place to place. Many send generous sums of money home to support their families. The hotel does not receive money directly from the escorts. I spent five evenings in the side room of the karaoke bar where escorts wait for business. In this room, they smoke, talk on their mobile phones, play cards, or simply stare into space. When customers request escorts, the mamasan enters the room and points to five or six women to present to the customers. The escorts then line up in front of the potential clients, who select from among them, prodded by the mamasan, who describes the women variously as beautiful, lively, or gifted singers.10


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The selling of sexual ser vices at the hotel created the impression that all women were for sale, even the ethnographer. One night at the Panther club, although I was in my T-shirt and jeans, looking decidedly unglamorous, I was summoned by a customer to join an escort lineup. Formal staff members faced customer propositioning regularly. Yundan, a cocktail waitress described a typical incident: Men will tell me I’m beautiful and ask me to join them for a drink. Last night a Japanese tourist rubbed my hand when I served his drink. . . . Sometimes I’m afraid they will be waiting for me after work. I showed him my name tag, that I am a waitress—and don’t provide “that” kind of ser vice.

During our interview, a room ser vice waitress, 18-year-old Lanying, sat across from me wearing her short French maid’s uniform. She described a more frightening experience: “A guest locked me in and asked, ‘So you have any prostitutes [xiaojie] here?’ I said, I’m not a prostitute. You have to go to the nightclub to find a prostitute.” The guest finally let her go. Another guest persistently asked a cocktail waitress, Shihong, for the company of one of the nightclub hostesses, but Shihong insisted that she was not an escort. He immediately pulled Shihong onto a couch and hugged her. She slammed her foot on his to get away. Yundan articulated her low expectations for customer behavior: “In fact, as long as they don’t hit you, then it’s no problem.” The sexual disrespect spilled over into other negotiations. Clients routinely tried to renegotiate already agreed-upon contracts for banquets. On a few occasions customers unable to bargain down the price threw their payment on the ground, forcing the waitress to pick it up. Female frontline staff members also reported discomfort with guest requests to broker sexual ser vices. One hostess described the mortification she experienced when male guests asked her about escorts: They’ll ask indirectly, like about “entertainment facilities” [ yule sheshi] or “ser vice programs.” I tell them about our Ping-Pong and bowling facilities. . . . And then they will ask, “What else?” Then I ask them, “Well, what kind of ser vices to you need?” Then they’ll ask, “Do you have a sauna, massage ser vices?” I tell them yes. Then they ask me, “What kind of charges do these ser vices involve?” And then they ask, “Do you have special ser vices?”

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At this point, after so many of these types of questions, I’ve really lost face; I’m embarrassed. Then they say, “How are your prostitutes’ ser vices? What kind of ser vices do they provide?” Then I say, “I’m not really clear on this; you have no need to worry about anything.” Guests who are drunk will come to the front desk and ask me, “Does your hotel have prostitutes?” I tell them, “Sir, please go to the nightclub.”

Employees reported that parents, boyfriends, and other relatives objected to their frontline work in a hotel because it is associated with the sex industry. Some employees expressed concern that potential spouses might be unwilling to marry them because they had worked in an industry associated with sex work. As a defense against these indignities and aggressions, KT workers try to redirect customer attention, utilizing techniques that focus interaction on selling the hotel’s products.11 Compared to the smiling staff at the BT, KT workers maintained an impassive bearing with customers, often avoiding eye contact and smiling only occasionally. A 24-year-old waitress, Wenling, captured the KT workers’ typical orientation: “I’m not empathizing with people. . . . If I encounter some problem, I can calmly consider it rather than act impulsively.” KT’s frontline workers attempted to control the tone of their interactions with customers using elaborate, rapid-fire, and often aggressive sales pitches about special drinks and foods. Given the ample local delicacies, workers tended to act as gatekeepers to the world of Yunnan cuisine. Instead of the silent ser vice that BT patrons experienced, guests at the KT were confronted by an opening salvo of detail about food items so that they had little opportunity to alter the tone of the exchange. For example, during a typical exchange I observed, Lili, a waitress, greeted a patron with “Good evening. Welcome to the [Ocean Empress] restaurant. Would you like to try our salmon? It is from our fresh tanks. It’s made with hongsu sauce and wrapped inside a papaya. It’s 220 yuan [US$27] each person. Perhaps you’d also like to try shark fin; it’s nutritious and quite rare. . . . We boil it for ten hours; then we peel off the skin and extract the fi lling.” Sometimes waitresses offered disquisitions about the medicinal properties of ingredients. They embarked on monologues before customers uttered a word, adopting a professional tone with little


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trace of affect in their voices. Their bodies stood straight and communicated altertness, a bit like soldiers standing at attention. Cocktail waitresses enacted similar routines, pressuring guests to order specialty cocktails. If customers objectified female staff members as sexual objects, workers reciprocated by objectifying the customers as walking wallets, prodding them as best they could to spend money on expensive beverages and foods.12 Frequently misidentified as escorts, workers used bodily symbols of professionalism to signal their formal attachment to the hotel. Xiuying, a hostess in the second-floor bar, eager to clarify the distinction between the “informal” sex workers and “formal” hotel workers, described the sharp contrast in demeanor: “They wear sexy street clothes . . . we have formal name tags and uniforms.” She then added, “They’re casual [suibian],” which in Mandarin is a euphemism for carelessness of demeanor and moral laxity. When workers encounter unwanted customer advances, they point to their name badges and uniforms, which signal formal attachment to the hotel. To make the distinction less subtle, they wear light makeup and simple hairstyles, which contrast dramatically with the elaborately coiffed escorts, who are adorned with dark lipstick, eyeliner, and false eyelashes, hair attachments, and dyed red and blond hair. Unlike workers at many ser vice outlets, who experience their uniforms as a sign of subservience and an affront to control over their presentation of identity (Leidner 1993; McDowell 2009; Newman 1999), the KT workers valued their uniforms as a signal of professional identity that lent them respectability. Staff members also set themselves apart from escorts symbolically by emphasizing frugality. Although money is often assumed to be a neutral medium of exchange, it can be infused with different significance and meaning for men and women (Zelizer 1997). In this setting, affluence among unmarried women is associated with gender transgression; by minimizing ambition for wealth, female staff members secure their virtue and adhere to proper gender roles. Deriving virtue from meager means is a response to widespread public opinion associating prostitution with money and leisure (Parish and Pan 2006). Escorts earn at least twenty times the wages of frontline staff members, investing their capital in clothing, jewelry, and high-end mobile phones. A cocktail waitress

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explained, “If you come home with fancy new clothes on, or if you give your parents lots of money, people will suspect that you have been working in some unsuitable work.” A supervisor, Lihua, reported, “My parents . . . feared that I . . . would do all manner of illicit things for money once in this industry.” One bar hostess, 25-year-old Xiulan, expressing a common urban bias toward rural people, lamented, “Some of the prostitutes are from the countryside. They have much more money than us. But they are selling themselves.” For Xiulan, these women inverted the urban-rural class hierarchy. She reasserts urban superiority through a gender discourse of virtue. Another waitress commented, “I don’t care how much we get paid. I just want to be happy. That’s very important. I don’t think money is the most important thing. Things like friendship and love can’t be bought with money, right?” The caution regarding money among workers at the KT stands in sharp contrast to the BT workers’ linkage of face-giving and salary. In the context of the KT, limited spending and modest financial ambition became signals for feminine virtue. Taking the moral high ground through austerity of consumption compensated for occupying the economic low ground. While jobs at the hotel may offer symbolic resources to maintain respectability associated with middle-class femininity, they do not provide middle-class wages. Escorts may earn middle-class wages, but face difficulty achieving female middle-class respectability. Escorts also bear the stigma of working in male spaces, a theme that came up frequently in interviews. Workers talked about appropriate spaces for male and female bodies, assigning moral value to those who conformed to these boundaries and passing judgment on those who transgressed them. These interpretations of work divide the world into a masculine arena of autonomy and mobility and a feminine space of calm and stability. A female cashier explained to me why women prefer to work in the hotel: “It’s stable. Women can do the work; it’s relaxed and they don’t have to go out; they can just stay in the office where the wind doesn’t blow. . . . They aren’t like boys, who rush about outside. It’s safe.” A hostess in the Western café suggested that men are ambitious compared to women: “Boys want work in which they will realize themselves. . . . [Girls] are willing to work in fairly stable and calm work.” Autonomy at work is itself formulated as a masculine characteristic, as a male chauffer


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revealed in discussing his line of work: “Girls just aren’t . . . suited to this profession. . . . In a tense or an important situation they just won’t handle matters as well as men. To drive a car you first need great courage and an analytic mind.” In interviews, workers depicted escorts’ bodies as moving in a male space, describing their work as therefore involving excitement, instability, ambition, working closely with men, and living independently so as to entertain clients in private. After telling me that she lived with her family in an apartment, as did most formal workers, a hostess drew a contrast with escorts: “They travel from hotel to hotel in expensive taxis and live by themselves.” Her moral evaluation was implicit but clear. As women who are spatially and economically mobile, escorts transgress gender boundaries that KT’s formal workers seek to maintain. Just as men construe career success as validation of their masculinity, women’s constrained opportunities serve as a badge of virtuous femininity. The linkage between virtue and limited mobility is pronounced. By depicting limited financial and career opportunities as virtuous, workers turn occupational sex segregation into gender virtue in labor markets that restrict their mobility and present the risk of misidentification as sex workers. The linkage between professionalism and virtue helps to explain why managerial severity did not produce surly ser vice workers. Although there was a glut of hotels for Kunming’s nascent tourist market, few global luxury hotels were built in the city. Workers sought a relatively rare career-training experience at a globally linked hotel. So despite tensions with managers, low wages, poor benefits, and mischievous customers, workers opt to stay at the hotel rather than seeking work elsewhere. The KT represented a relatively desirable job in an urban marketplace focused on tourism. The KT occupied the pinnacle of the hotel hierarchy in the local labor market and could therefore sustain coercive labor practices. Workers also claim respectability by adopting a professional bearing. Instead of displacing their irritability onto customers or rebelling openly against management, workers frequently criticized managers to me and to fellow workers. They also pilfered small guest amenities like soaps and shampoos and quietly but persistently broke other hotel policies. They

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regularly showed up to the hotel’s restaurants on their days off, in defiance of work regulations. These acts may reflect a practical schema originating in their parent’s relationship to the Mao-era work unit. Workers’ lived and worked within the unit, and movement about factories was not highly circumscribed. Managers of these factories also distributed routine consumer goods, such as soap and cooking oil, to workers, so that workers take the hotel plentitude of consumables as their own. Workers’ defiance of work rules only served to reinforce their putative ethnic backwardness in the eyes of managers and did little to change the conditions of work. The strategic use of professionalism with its emphasis on frugality ultimately maintains organizational hierarchies, but within a highly unstable, conflict-ridden environment.

Conclusion In a context of intense competition, with a glut of hotels on the market, the KT’s owner resorted to a strategy of localizing global organizational templates and ser vice repertoires. Global hotel practices are filtered by domestic managers, who adapt them to a local consumer market and preexisting legacies of employment. The credibility of the domestic managers, who are outsiders in workers’ eyes, is undermined by the limited benefits offered at the hotel and by their own poorly concealed contempt for the employees, whom they view as “backward.” The absence of redistributive mechanisms and resources associated with well-endowed work units, such as the one that owned the KT, leaves workers feeling deprived and resentful of the swollen salaries collected by their “outsider” managers. In turn, middle managers have few resources with which to curry favor with their workers. Instead, they adhere to a penal model, disciplining workers using punishment and shaming. At the same time, women workers perform labor in a high-voltage sexual environment, where all women are readily sexualized and local workers are viewed as backward due to their perceived “non-Han” ethnicity. In response, women workers use professionalism as a badge of virtue and a refusal of management’s accusations of ethnic backwardness, at the same time distinguishing their legitimate professional work


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from illegitimate sex work. The virtuous gender identity they formulate is a resource with which to reclaim dignity in their work and offers consolation for their limited class mobility. While their work might offer some limited professional credentials it is not a route to affluence. Their professionalism fosters compliance to the directives of customers, but it is compliance characterized by emotional detachment. This chapter has analyzed how workers use professionalism to reconstruct dignity and gain autonomy within an intersection of gender, ethnic, and class identities. In the next chapter, I analyze the quest for dignity among a third group of workers who labor in a sector created indirectly by global economic transformation: migrant women working in informal sector ser vice jobs. Whereas urban workers at the BT and the KT enjoy a baseline of legal rights and protections, lending them some basic legal guarantees in their workplace struggles, migrant women have none of these urban rights and protections.

4 Aspirational Urbanism Consuming Respect in China’s Informal Service Sector

I still feel like I have no roots. It’s like a sharp wind cut me from my string and now I’m left to float in the empty sky. Mingli, 17-year-old migrant worker in Kunming, China

Seventeen-year-old Mingli had been working for three years in Kunming when I met her. Originally from a small village in Sichuan, she cleaned rooms for a medium-sized guesthouse in the city. After each workday she returned to her dormitory room, a spare, narrow space stuffed with eight wooden cots. All of her possessions fit underneath her cot. I visited her on several evenings, and we shared stories about our homes and lives as roommates circulated through the dorm, occasionally joining the conversation. One evening she blithely retrieved a photo album from below the cot, setting it gently on my lap and opening the first pages to show me pictures of her friends and family. But the treasured centerpiece of her photo album was a portfolio of glossy pictures of Mingli herself. She appeared in soft focus, her bare shoulders floating on froths of chiffon and lace. Her makeup had been professionally applied and her eyebrows carefully manicured, making her look like a porcelain doll. She struck a series of poses. In one she carried a frilly silk umbrella, gazing at the ground, a slight pout drawing her rose red lips downward. In another photo she grinned devilishly, looking out of the corners of her eyes. In


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all there were about eight photos, all shot at one of the many professional studios in town. As we admired the images, other young women gathered and offered studied commentary on Mingli’s clothing, makeup, and poses: “The sparkle eye shadow looks great in the photo, but you can’t wear that on the streets,” Limai advised. Another queried, “Have you sent this photo home to your parents?” “I want to wear that dress for my photos, but in blue,” announced a third. A few fetched photo albums from beneath their cots to show me their cache of glamour portfolios. Others calculated when they might save enough money—the better part of a month’s salary—to have their own set of photos taken. Why would these young women who worked for just over US$2 a day in the ser vice sector indulge in such extravagance? And how are such luxuries related to the work they perform in ser vices? What do these consumption practices reveal about market-embodied labor? Rural migrants who labor in the urban informal sector, like Mingli, comprise 42 percent of China’s total urban labor force. Almost half of these workers (47 percent) are employed in ser vices (Huang 2009). Urban informal sectors represent the underbelly of the more highly visible global flows of capital, people, data, and resources that define contemporary globalization (Sassen 1988). Informal sectors of work subsidize urban employers by providing low-cost services that maintain a ceiling on the urban cost of living, at the same time availing urbanites of myriad services, including restaurants, retail stores, cafés, entertainment, saunas, gyms, and domestic care. In this case study, I extend the concept of market-embodied labor to urban China’s new informal sector. By definition, the ser vice sector exists outside the world of corporate service conglomerates that strategically choreograph labor to appeal to the status struggles of their clients. The absence of highly structured work practices raises the following questions: If firms are not coordinating the labor of workers to appeal to the gender and class predilections of the consumer market, what are the dominant patterns of and causes for prevailing labor practices? Do women workers adapt their behavior to appeal to consumer markets despite the absence of bureaucratic regulatory structures? If so, what forces direct these adaptations?

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Unlike the employees of the Beijing and Kunming Transluxury Hotels, migrant women do not labor for large, bureaucratic, globally linked organizations. Their labor is not subject to ser vice protocols imported from the United States or deliberately adapted to local luxury markets. Consumer markets influence the character of informal sector labor, but the adaptations women make to meet the perceived struggles for status among the urban consumers they serve appear to be voluntary. Despite appearances, however, there are structural mechanisms underlying the connection between consumer markets and labor practices, mechanisms that diverge from those of the formal sector. Informal sector market-embodied labor can be traced to a state bureaucratic legacy that exercises indirect control over workers by exempting them from urban citizenship, which prevents their long-term settlement in cities and excludes them from the protection provided by employment laws. By disenfranchising migrants, the state leaves the immediate labor relationship to the discretion of employers, who pay meager wages and require long days of work. Moreover, a general absence of workplace protocols coordinating relations between customers and employees, coupled with migrants’ youth, gender, and low status, creates a ser vice context in which urban customers exercise substantial power over employees and direct their labor, with few formalized limits on their actions. These urban consumers are deeply anxious about their position in China’s now fluid status system and tend to feel superior to and often plainly contemptuous of migrants. In response, migrant women resort to one of the only arenas of discretion available to them, given the narrow circumscription of their lives in urban centers: they adjust their presentation of femininity. The glamour photo sessions (and other forms of consumption) are part of a larger complement of gender strategies migrants use to achieve respectability in the urban social milieu by altering their bodies. They spend their meager incomes on goods that promise to transform their bodies into urban selves so that they might court respectful responses from customers and even claim equivalence with them. Cities are not only material constructions but also “symbolic projects” created through representations of affluence, culture, civility, technology, and ethnicity that form terms for inclusion and exclusion (Zukin 1996). Migrant women recognize the


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symbolic politics at play in the city and attempt to conform their bodies accordingly. Their aspiration to become urban— and tragic inability to do so—resolves into a form of labor control as workers seek the approval of their urban customers. If migrants feel like kites cut loose, floating about the sky, then reformulating their appearance to act and look like urbanites offers the hope of a bodily anchor in the urban center.

Embeddedness in Urban Consumer Markets I’ll tell you what—this city wasn’t always such a mess. It’s the migrants. They come here and bring the dirt, their bad habits, ignorance. They basically lack quality. Beijing cabdriver

It was a chorus chanted from the throats of cabdrivers, acquaintances, friends—nearly every urbanite who discovered my interest in migrant workers. “They’re dangerous— don’t go into their neighborhoods,” offered a protective local friend, echoing the attitudes of many urbanites. “They’ve turned the city into a chaotic [luan] place,” announced a manager at the Beijing Transluxury. In the course of an interview at the Kunming Transluxury Hotel, I asked a cocktail waitress to define “quality” (suzhi), a term she used to assess guests. She said, “Well, for example, those rural people who work in the public areas department cleaning floors . . . [they have] no education, poor hygiene, you can’t even understand them when they speak. . . . They are of very low quality.” For urbanites, the bodies and actions of migrants constitute a lowlevel, daily, and habitual offense to the most fundamental norms of modernity, progress, and civility (Gaetano and Jacka 2004; Guang 2003; H. Yan 2008). Without a permanent place of abode in the urban center, migrants are unable to bring the collateral of permanent residence to their relationships with urbanites. “They can just run off back to their village,” a guesthouse manager cautioned.1 The presence of migrants is one particularly conspicuous manifestation of the widening inequalities that have wrenched China’s urban centers in recent years. These social and material disparities are especially disorienting because of their relatively sudden emergence. In the 1970s rates of inequality in urban China were among the lowest in the world, but by the 1990s

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China’s cities were the sites of some of the highest rates of inequality (Davis and Wang 2009).2 In the space of just two decades urbanites faced massive layoffs, privatization of housing, land reclamation, forced relocations, the virtual elimination of health care, rapidly shifting labor markets, uncertain employment, and volatile consumer prices. These startling transformations leave urbanites anxious and insecure (Davis and Wang 2009; Lee 2007). At the same time, migrants entering cities by the millions threaten to deprive urban dwellers of stable jobs, compounding their angst (Lee 2007).3 Broadening differences in standards of living and narrowing opportunity structures for those left behind the boom generate deep social and existential uncertainty about individuals’ place in the social world, as rules about what constitutes accomplishment, value, and status have been completely redefined. These anxieties float just below the surface of civility and simmer in spaces of interaction where social protocols are not clearly defined, such as informal sector ser vice outlets. Hence, the informal sector consumer market is constituted not only by urbanites’ desire for restaurants and places of entertainment but also by their quotidian quests for respect and distinction. As urban dwellers struggle to find social, material, moral, and cultural anchoring in the rapidly shifting class landscape of China’s urban metropolises, rural people become fodder for their efforts. Urbanites’ presumption of cultural superiority forms the basis for direct and indirect forms of labor control over migrant consumer ser vice workers. This control takes root in the bodies of migrant women as they respond to the behaviors of their urban customers. The low-status position of rural people in Chinese urban society is reflected in new categories of language. Newspapers, magazines, and television news broadcasts designate female rural migrants “working little sisters” (dagongmei), denoting a low-status kin position. The use of this gendered familial term summons paternalistic dispositions toward migrant women. The term mangliu, or “blind flow,” also peppers media accounts about rural sojourners, suggesting that migrants are aimless itinerants. During the 2007 Spring Festival, when extreme weather hindered the train system, thousands of migrants hoping to return home for the holiday were left stranded at train stations. Images of the throngs clamoring to board trains, so densely packed that they seem to form a


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single, seething mass, undulating beyond the will of any individual, circulated throughout the mass media.4 These images represent migrants as a chaotic and intractable force invading cities. Compounding the sense of threat, media outlets, along with some municipal agencies, have adopted “migrant crime” as a new category of legal transgression, separating migrants into a special class of deviant. Reflecting a generalized suspicion of migrants, a building manager in Shanghai posted a sign in a public-use elevator: “Beware of fire and migrants during the holidays. Many peasants steal before they head home for the New Year” (Guang 2003: 622). Urbanites readily scapegoat migrants for a plethora of social problems, criminal and noncriminal (Guang 2003).5 The popular media also depict migrant women as cheap, tawdry, and gaudy. For example, an editorial in a popular Shanghai newspaper indicted migrant women for acting coarse and vulgar (Guang 2003). These attributes were epitomized, according to the writer, in the tawdry sandals rural women wear as they stroll the streets of Shanghai. Guang comments, “The cheap sandals worn by the migrant women marked warped femininity, vagrancy, underclass, and outsideness” (2003: 631). Such images make rural migrant women a foil for the tasteful, manicured urban woman. According to an editorial in a popular magazine, “The fair lady is never a countryside bumpkin, but a refined city woman” (Zheng 2004: 86). At a New Year’s party I attended at the Beijing Transluxury Hotel, urban female staff performed their version of a traditional rural dance, dressing up according to a stereotype of rural girls. They donned brightly patterned skirts and tops in kaleidoscopic patterns of shocking pink, electric orange, rich scarlet, and vivid purple, all of which clashed by conventional standards. As they dressed, they poked ruthless fun at the aesthetic backwardness of rural women, mimicking their accents and manners. Within informal ser vice outlets, this disposition toward urban distinction is expressed as both symbolic and direct domination of migrant labor. Armed with stereotypes of rural peoples as “low quality” (suzhi di) and uncivilized, a blight on the urban center, urbanites view themselves as unquestionably and fundamentally superior. Many endeavor to edify the putatively poor, ignorant, backward rural girls who serve them. Belittled, distanced, and socially sequestered, migrants seek

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redemption in the social and cultural assessments of urbanites; they spend substantial portions of their income remaking their appearances. Whereas in hotels management organizes labor to appeal to customers’ striving for distinction, in the informal sector women adapt their labor to the tastes and predilections of customers spontaneously in order to conceal their rural origins and gain respect.

Embeddedness in Institutional Work Legacies: The Informal Sector The character of market-embodied labor that unfolds in the informal sector is determined in the first instance by its embeddedness in macro-level regulatory work legacies that are administered by municipal governments and in the second instance in the simultaneously despotic and casual work environment permitted by this legacy. Despotism can be defined as labor control that draws on coercive tactics, such as fear, fines, and penalties. Workers tolerate these tactics because of their dependence for a livelihood on waged labor (Burawoy 1979). Informal sector employers tend to control their workers with fines and penalties, while scarcely regulating the relationship between customers and workers. The impetus for the creation of China’s informal sector was concern about urban unemployment. In 1981 the state implemented the Individual Business Policy (Geti Jingji Zhengci), allowing citizens to establish their own private, profit-making businesses. The CCP had all but eradicated private businesses, and urban workers labored for either stateowned work units or collectives. But throngs of youths were returning from the countryside, after having been rusticated for reeducation during the Cultural Revolution. The CCP hoped that the new private businesses would be a source of employment for this population. The policy permitted urban residents to obtain business operating licenses. Municipal and district branches of the Bureau of Industry and Commerce licensed businesses and administered their activities (S. Young 1995).6 Government enterprises were mandated to allow new businesses access to inputs required for operation. Small businesses were limited to five employees until 1987, when the number increased to eight for individually owned businesses, a category distinguished from private enterprises


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(siyingqiye), which were permitted to employ more than eight workers (Han and Pannell 1999). Given the absence of a market in commercial real estate, private owners were forced to rent space from state-owned enterprises, municipal bureaus, and urban street committees. Rental arrangements were diverse and included profit sharing and, in some cases, even placing landlords on the company payroll as wage earners. Eventually, state-owned enterprises themselves began to invest in these small businesses, as a way to employ their surplus workforce and to evade costly state regulations. These state-owned enterprises benefited from informal sector arrangements: low wages, the absence of labor laws, and unregulated work hours for employees reduced operating costs. Involvement in the informal sector was a revenue-generating strategy for state-owned enterprises in the transition from socialism to a market economy. Initially, a number of factors combined to stigmatize the new business sector: the low status of owners (ex-convicts and retirees prevalent among them), mistrust of for-profit businesses among the general public, and limited benefits and salary guarantees for its employees. Periodic state campaigns against small businesses, which were perceived as a threat to state industries, also tarnished the sector’s reputation.7 But with few obstacles to starting up and growing competition for jobs in the state sector, the number of small entrepreneurs grew steadily. As the numbers of small businesses increased, their reputations improved, even though they continued to be characterized by unstable employment relations. Meanwhile, the state’s new agricultural policy created a surplus of rural workers, who flooded the nascent urban labor markets. Under the household responsibility system, the state redistributed agricultural land from large collectives to rural households, leaving many families with too little land to employ all their members. As urban governments relaxed the residential policies that until 1981 prevented spontaneous population movement from the countryside to the city, rural workers began traveling to cities in search of work. Rural migrants quickly became the preferred labor force for small, private sector businesses, especially because residential policies guaranteed their exclusion from the labor laws regulating urban workers. As discussed in Chapter 1, the household registration system (hukou) that today channels migrants into an unregulated labor market was in-

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vented in the Mao era as a macro-level administrative tool for fi xing rural populations to their place of birth. After 1950 the system banned rural dwellers from leaving the village to sojourn in urban centers, as they had for centuries (Skinner 1976). This regulatory apparatus has been modified in the reform era to channel and oversee the 147 million rural laborers moving to cities (China National Bureau of Statistics 2006). It operates much like the legal boundaries and exclusions constructed by the regulation of national borders in large immigrant-receiving nations such as the United States, Canada, and European countries. Ultimately, the household registration system creates what is locally deemed a “floating population” (liudong renkou), a reserve army of labor exempt from labor laws that employers can hire or send home at will. The system requires close monitoring of population movement by state institutions at a cost that is borne by migrants through substantial regulation and documentation fees. To legally work in cities, migrants must pay for an identification card and a work permit. Female migrants must acquire a family-planning certificate to ensure adherence to the one-child-per-family policy. Once in the city, migrants are required by the local public security bureau to apply annually for a temporary residence permit, but only after passing an official health inspection. The cost of these documents is close to 600 yuan (about US$80) in fees, representing between one-half and two months’ salary for most ser vice workers.8 Only individuals who are gainfully employed are legally permitted to apply for a temporary residence permit. Dependents, including children and unemployed spouses, are barred from living with workers in the city. Police arbitrarily inspect these documents and interrogate migrants.9 Public security authorities can place unemployed or unauthorized migrants in detention centers and deport them to their villages (L. Zhang 2001). In the first half of 2002, the Beijing municipal government announced that it had deported 180,000 migrants back to their home villages (Li et al. 2006). By preventing settlement in the urban center, the state ensures a continuous supply of neophyte laborers to staff urban consumer ser vice outlets. These young women tend to abdicate their jobs upon age of marriage, usually in their mid-twenties, and are easily replaced with fresh young recruits. Hence, customers are assured of being served by a woman


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younger than they, thereby bringing age hierarchies into play on the service floor (Brinton 2007). Residence laws that confine migrants to informal labor markets and ban migrant women from settling in cities also discourage their marriage to urbanites: children of urban-rural “mixed” marriages are not permitted to use urban educational and other services.10 Workers are thus left dependent on their rural families for long-term support.11 Despite the divergent regional economic and cultural environments of the urban centers where migrants labor, the centrally mandated household registration system forms strikingly similar “contexts of reception” for migrant women in metropolitan China. Contexts of reception refer to legal, economic, and cultural patterns that condition migrants’ incorporation into a receiving society (Parreñas 2001; Portes and Rumbaut 1996). Migrant women undergo parallel processes of exclusion in both Beijing and Kunming because of the household registration system. Hence, this chapter emphasizes the analogous effects of the system across regions. Because migrant ser vice workers are excluded from employment regulation, they become particularly vulnerable to urban customers, who harbor a degree of contempt toward them.

Staff-Employer Relations The small businesses employing migrants are owned by urbanites, affluent migrants (who have acquired urban residence or who sublease from urbanites), and sometimes state-owned enterprises (Duckett 1998; Guthrie 1999; Tsai 2004).12 Given the absence of employment laws, these employers can pay low wages and require long hours of work. It is not unusual for migrant women to work ten to fifteen hours a day— and they earn meager wages for these long hours. According to the International Labour Organization, the average wage of urban informal sector workers in 2004 was 780 yuan per month (US$98). These workers labored an average of eleven hours per day (Huang 2009: 408). Other surveys show that they earn on average 50 percent less than urban residents (Huang 2009). The monthly wages of workers I interviewed ranged from 150 yuan (about US$19) for live-in nannies to 800 yuan (about US$100) for skilled beauticians. Waitresses and hostesses earn wages in the low to middle range of this scale. Wages and conditions of work are

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thus considerably stratified in the informal sector, with workers who have skills, connections, and experience making considerably more than nannies. Thus, the informal sector contains a range of employment relationships, experiences, and labor practices (Swider 2008). However, I found that female migrant workers in the ser vice sector shared important experiences in common; specifically, all struggled with cultural and political exclusion from urban centers. They also shared similar strategies for claiming inclusion in urban society. When the employer provides living quarters, the typical space is a long, narrow room. Bunk beds stacked two or even three platforms high fill most of the space. The occasional blank wall is filled with posters of pop culture icons, Hong Kong movie stars, and Taiwanese singers. Some workers must sleep inside their workplace on restaurant or bar chairs and tables. Hongmei, a hostess at a small café in Kunming, slept on thinly upholstered benches that customers used by day. She lamented, “Our living environment is wretched.” None of the workplaces that I studied systematically codified a full complement of work codes, regulations, and penalties. Instead, rules and penalties emerge as ad hoc solutions to problems as they arise. Employees are usually recruited through personal connections. Training is minimal and occurs on the job. Few bureaucratic rules dictate conditions of employment, methods of interaction, or modes of self-presentation, training, penalties, or recruitment. Nevertheless, across the small businesses I examined, a few specific labor practices were consistently implemented. Most employers require a deposit, usually the equivalent of one-quarter to a full month’s salary. This deposit can be returned if the employee gives the employer adequate leave notice and returns her uniform.13 A majority of employers disburse wages only once a month. Burdensome deposits and long intervals between wages prevent migrants from departing without two weeks to one month’s notice. Employers also hold workers’ temporary residence permits and other official documentation. This practice prevents unanticipated departures and increases workers’ reluctance to travel around the city, since without their documentation they are vulnerable to detention and deportation back to their villages by authorities. Employers tend to impose monetary sanctions for tardiness, unscheduled leaves, equipment


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breakage, or damage to customers. These penalties are often not specified in advance, but rather are levied in an ad hoc fashion. Holding the employee responsible for damages to customers’ personal effects minimizes the employer’s losses. Zhenbao, a 17-year-old working as a nanny for 178 yuan (about US$23) per month in a three-room Kunming apartment, related that in the course of work, “I chipped a chunk of enamel off my employer’s refrigerator while I was cleaning. [The employer] wanted 600 yuan [about US$80] for the damage!” In an outlet of the popular local fast-food chain California Beef Noodle in Beijing’s southwest Chongwen district, I witnessed one of my informants, Chenmei, subjected to a loud upbraiding by a customer for spilling soda from a platter she carried and soiling his new silk jacket. But he had bumped into her. He demanded compensation for the jacket. “This is outrageous!” he shouted as the diminutive Chenmei shrank in embarrassment, anemically wiping at the stain, now well set into his jacket, as she profusely apologized. The restaurant owner compensated the customer, forcing Chenmei to pay for half the sum, about one-half of her monthly salary. Although monetary sanctions can be onerous, many women feel that suffering the often unpredictable wrath of their employers is the most unbearable part of the job. Employer anger is especially withering because workers rarely have other contacts in the city. Lonely, isolated, and far from their families for the first time, many depend entirely on their employers for social and economic support, particularly in the first year of employment. Xiaohe, a Beijing waitress from rural Anhui, explained, “If we make a small mistake, [the boss] cusses you out. . . . He just scolds you. When that happens, I can’t even eat—I sit on the terrace, miss home, and cry.” Isolated in often small service outlets with no urban social networks, these women have few social resources to cushion such blows. When Mingli, the Kunming guesthouse worker featured at the beginning of this chapter, was accused by a supervisor of stealing drinking glasses from guest rooms, the supervisor forced her to enter each guest room to count each individual glass in front of guests, a form of ritual shaming. I watched her eyes well up as she counted the glasses in my friend’s room. Not only do employers levy fines to minimize their risk of loss, but they also recruit workers through personal connections so as to have a guarantor of their employee’s character and commitment, another means

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of averting financial losses.14 Employers tend to rely on friends, acquaintances, or existing employees to find workers. Some employers use contacts with rural relatives to recruit workers from distant villages. Others rely on contacts with rural acquaintances in the city and hire the fellow villagers of their own or their neighbors’ nannies, or friends of rural migrant workers already in the city.15 In general, employers try to find contacts with rural villagers with whom they already had a relationship so as to establish some basis for trust and loyalty. These connections are also used to control workers: employers hold the intermediary responsible if the worker departs without notice, absconds with valuables, or otherwise conducts herself inappropriately. One of the clearest expressions of the casual nature of the work environment is training. Workers are usually trained on the job. Typically, on their first day of work employers or fellow workers briefly outline new employees’ work tasks, after which the workers are sent out on the ser vice floor to sink or swim. Zhanglei described her employer’s instructions on her first day on the job at the Golden Garden restaurant in Beijing: “He told me not to talk back to customers, just take their order, be polite, and make sure they pay their bill in full.” Unpredictable penalties coupled with thin or nonexistent guidelines for ser vices place migrant women workers at the mercy of their urban customers, who often serve as models for behavior. By excluding migrants from urban rights and entitlements, especially employment rights, the household registration system reinforces and legitimates antimigrant urban sentiments. Migrant women in the ser vice sector respond by seeking to pass as urbanites, attempting to adopt urban dress and manners in an effort to cultivate the respect of their urban customers. In other words, they aspire to be urban. Hence, I term the regime under which they labor “aspirational urbanism.” Urban inclusion becomes both seductive and elusive for these women.

Embeddedness in Practical Gender and Class Schemata: Consumption as Coping The routine disapproval expressed by urban customers distressed migrant workers. Hairei is a 22-year-old waitress at the North River, a


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ramshackle restaurant in suburban Beijing that is crammed with seven tables, each covered with a shriveling plastic gingham tablecloth. On the day we spoke, Hairei wore acid-washed jeans and a matching shortwaisted jacket outlined with decorative metal studs. We huddled around a coal burner as she described her sense of belittlement since arriving in the city: People from the city look down on rural people because they have city residence—[to them] we are hillbillies. It’s impossible for us to be accepted here; [urbanites] consider us to be basically a different category of person. Sometimes I don’t even think they regard us as full human beings.

Zhangyan, originally from a village in a desolate region in Yunnan’s northeast, who served chrysanthemum tea and hot towels to patrons in a Kunming bowling alley (where workers are required to clap when players score a strike), spoke of urban discrimination thus: “Customers always have that disgusted kind of look because I am from the countryside; they think we are of a different class.” Liuling, 21, traveled from rural Anhui to become a cocktail waitress in the sumptuous downtown Beijing Peacock Bar. She felt demeaned by urban customers: “We are outsiders [and] of no importance to them. . . . They’ve learned that by using us they can earn money.” As Xuling, who migrated to Beijing from her village in Hunan, points out: “[Urbanites] don’t trust us because we don’t have a permanent address here in the city; they assume we will just steal from them and trot off to our homes in the countryside.” One of the most demoralizing realizations for the young transplants is the yawning education gap separating them from the average urbanite. According to the China National Bureau of Statistics (2001), 50 percent of female migrants completed only primary school; the average years of education among all migrants is just over seven years, whereas urbanites average more than ten years of education. The educational level of the vast majority of migrant women I interviewed did not extend beyond middle school, and almost a third had completed only primary school, despite a national law passed in 1986 mandating nine years of compulsory education.16 Migrants repeatedly cited their low level of education and lack of skills to explain their exclusion from the

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urban center. Those who dropped out of school to work in Beijing and Kunming echoed 19-year-old Chenhong from rural Gansu, who left middle school prematurely to work as a server in a Kunming teashop: “I took for granted [the opportunities for learning] when I was in school. I felt I had too little time on my hands. Now I regret [dropping out].” The decision to abandon education is irrevocable. Once a student exits the educational system, there are few opportunities to reenter. The household registration system bars migrants from participation in the urban educational system. The unpredictable hours women work in the ser vice sector also prevent them from attending informal extension courses in the city. Ser vice jobs offer migrants few opportunities to extend their education. Employers offer little if any training, and skills are mostly selftaught. Given the absence of training in ser vice protocols, workers tend to improvise responses to questions, issues, and problems that arise in the course of ser vice, especially when employers are not present. Many described fumbling their way through the first days on the job. Siuyin answered phone calls and washed clients’ hair at a beauty salon in Beijing. She described her first day: The boss was out and one of the guys who cuts hair just told me to answer the phone by saying “Sunrise Beauty Salon.” But then when the first customer called I didn’t know how to record an appointment. I just wrote the appointments down on business cards until the boss returned. The first weeks I had to ask about every little thing, even how to put someone on hold. When customers came in I didn’t know how much a haircut cost. I made so many mistakes. It was exhausting.

In many cases employers assumed basic knowledge that employees did not possess. In the urban environment, workers confront new technology they never encountered in their villages, including refrigerators, gas stoves, microwaves, espresso makers, and calculators. Employers rarely realize that migrants have little familiarity with modern appliances. In one café that served freeze-dried coffee, 15-year-old Xiaoqing, who had never before beheld the brown crystals, recalled placing three heaping tablespoons of coffee into a small cup. She chuckled, “The


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customer was so angry but made the funniest face when he drank the coffee. I was afraid I’d be fired when he complained.” In another incident, a waitress almost burned down the kitchen when she lit the gas stove after letting fumes emit for a few minutes. I heard wrenching stories about first days when workers were not familiar with the menu and could not describe dishes, or how the restaurant prepared them. Daiyu, a waitress who was 14 when she arrived in Beijing, told me: When I arrived the boss had to leave immediately, so I was just left with the cook to serve customers. I didn’t know anything. I just got a pad and wrote down what they told me and gave it to the cook. I forgot to collect payment from my very first customer, so I had to pay the bill. I cried that night.

Lacking experience, workers often took cues from customers during the first weeks on the job. For example, Yaqing, a waitress in a Kunming seafood restaurant, recalled, I was naive in the beginning. A group of four men came in to order food. I mean, before that I would remember the order and tell the cook, but they ordered so many dishes that halfway through I realized I’d forgotten the first part of the order. One guy said, “Hey why aren’t you writing this down?” Then he made some comment about how I’m a silly country girl. So I had to make them start all over again and wrote everything down carefully.

As they stumble and grope through their first weeks of work, migrant workers also have their first encounters with disapproving or even hostile urban attitudes, amplified by impatience with the neophyte employees. This diffuse antimigrant sentiment coalesces into control of young women on the ser vice floor. Unequal access to legal rights and protections in the urban center underwrites control by customers; women workers have no formal rights to contest their treatment. Moreover, small outlets invite casual behavior: decorum that is taken for granted in large bureaucratic ser vice settings is often transgressed in informal sector outlets. In fact, the relatively casual environment is part of the appeal of the informal ser vice outlet. As ser vice workers, migrants are frequently in the uncomfortable (and often untenable) position of having to enforce their employers’ rules among urbanites, who mostly regard themselves as socially supe-

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rior. Customers bristle when migrant women try to restrict their actions. Although many customers act respectfully, workers reported frequent customer intransigence. An acquaintance of mine, an urban resident of Kunming, visited my dormitory, which was staffed by migrant women who were responsible for checking all guests’ identification cards. My acquaintance chafed at the gatekeeping. Her voice reverberated through the halls: “How can this ignorant, incompetent country girl act this way? I’m not going to wait around while she tells me what to do!” I regularly witnessed angry tirades against migrant workers. In another case, Xichen, an 18-year-old receptionist at an upscale Beijing salon, begged a customer to put out his cigarette, which was squeezed between his two middle fingers. “Sir, there are chemicals in here,” Xichen pleaded. Customers regularly challenge workers’ prerogative to enforce behavior, pricing schemes, and billing. The retail sector only recently supplanted traditional peasant food markets, where customers purchased food items only after haggling over prices. Urbanites persist in this habit, as they did in these more informal, traditional spaces. “That’s way too expensive,” a customer intoned in front of his party guests while his waitress, the diminutive Shao Lei, looked on. “I won’t pay that much for duck in a place like this,” the man insisted. Shao Lei responded demurely, “I’m sorry, sir. That’s the cost of the dish; we can’t adjust the price for you.” “That’s bullshit [ fangpi],” the man retorted, punctuating the response with a long click of his tongue at the end. One of migrant workers’ greatest challenges is the struggle to convince customers that prices cannot be negotiated. In extreme cases, customers refuse to pay their bill. When workers fail to collect payment, employers subtract the deficit from their wages. Yuyue is a 17-year-old employee of the Prince Palace restaurant attached to a karaoke bar in Kunming. In this low-lit, upscale restaurant, patrons dine, drink, and smoke at one of the eight banquet-sized round tables. They are surrounded by mossy gray limestone-like walls that simulate the Stone Forest, a major tourist destination just outside of Kunming. Tanks containing multicolored fish pacing the water encrust the fauxlimestone walls. When a group of soldiers dined but would not pay their bill of more than 300 yuan (about US$40), the otherwise diffident Yuyue


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(clad in her red, satin, embroidered qipao) mustered up the courage to challenge them: I usually have great respect for people in the military. But after that incident, my whole idea of that was changed. They were nice to me at first, but then they refused to pay for dinner. . . . I would be forced to pay the bill if they weren’t going to pay. I dragged one of the guys by his jacket and insisted that he pay. The other soldiers didn’t want to pay, either. I fought for the money. And I cried for it because I had to fight for the money.

Nineteen-year-old Zhanglei, who worked at the Golden Garden restaurant in Beijing’s Haidian district, described a typical episode: After the guest ordered his food, he said it tasted bad. He didn’t pay the bill. . . . He just insulted me, [saying] “I’ve been in Beijing so many years, and I’ve never seen anything like this, you small child. How can you act like this?” We had to pay for the food ourselves. They took over forty yuan [about US$5] out of my salary.17

If customers’ refusal to settle receipts injures migrant women materially, sexual harassment wounds their self-esteem. Informal sector workers are especially at risk for sexual harassment because the karaoke bars, restaurants, and beauty salons that employ them are often also sites of solicitation by sex workers, leading customers to assume employees offer paid sexual favors (Hyde 2007).18 Hence, migrant workers share with the staff members of the Kunming Transluxury Hotel the problem of being mistaken as escorts and propositioned by male guests. Customers frequently refer to them as xiaojie, which, as mentioned earlier conflates the title “miss” with prostitute. But unlike the hotel’s employees, migrants cannot avail themselves of a professional shield to protect their virtue. Small, sometimes ramshackle, informal sector workplaces offer few professional resources. After a few drinks, customers often coax restaurant workers to drink and chat, essentially asking them to cross the line between professional waitressing and escorting. Typically these male customers will accuse the waitress of making them “lose face” if she does not do their bidding. Suddenly the tables are turned, and the village girl has the power to deprive the customer of the dignity of face. Given workers’ low status, it is a puz-

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zling and disorienting gender tactic to manipulate their behavior. I heard a version of the following incident, described by Xiangling, from every woman employed in a restaurant that served alcohol: One day, some guests arrived and they wanted us to drink with them. I didn’t want to make them angry, but I didn’t want to drink with them either. I said, “I don’t know how to drink.” [The customer] said, “You don’t give me face, miss (xiaojie).” I said, “It’s not because I don’t give you face; I don’t know how to drink.” He said, “How can you not know how to drink when you work in the ser vice industry?” I said that it’s partly my family’s upbringing. But he insisted. I said that I would drink tea instead. I didn’t want to lose dignity. So they let me go. I said I never developed the habit of drinking. He said that I should learn. I told them it’s not who I am.

Xiaobo, a 21-year-old Kunming waitress from Sichuan, over time developed methods to manage guests: “Well, if the guests want me to drink with them, I would decline . . . [and] drink tea instead, and make some flattering remarks. By doing this, I give them what they need—I put them up on a pedestal.” By declining to drink alcoholic beverages with male customers, waitresses firm up the boundary between their own respectable labor and the work of escorts. At the same time, they attempt to restrict customers’ behavior. Requests to drink with customers are often followed by touching and other inappropriate behavior. Twenty-two-year-old Xiaohe described the inappropriate customer behavior she encountered in her work at a small, corner restaurant located in a residential section of Beijing: “Usually after guests drink a lot, they get fresh with us. There’s a guest . . . he feels me, my hands and . . . if it’s excessive then this is unacceptable. Our work is quite bitter.” Workers in both Beijing and Kunming report such incidents, but sexual harassment is much more common in Kunming, where ser vice workers are more apt to labor in proximity to sex workers. As mentioned earlier, Kunming’s tourist industry promotes stereotyped, exotic, and erotic images of the diverse ethnic minority populations who live in Yunnan Province. Ethnic minority–themed restaurants recruit women workers to perform ersatz traditional ethnic dances onstage, massage patrons’ upper backs and necks at their tables, lead guests in childhood games like musical chairs, and force customers to drink shots of


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alcohol. These party games implicitly invite customers’ intimate touching, and workers are left to fend off their advances. At the Blue Fox restaurant, themed vaguely after a Wa ethnic minority village, waitresses dress in costumes from a variety of Yunnan’s ethnic minority groups (Bai, Dai, Wa, and Mosuo). These young women massage male guests at their tables, and some of the inebriated customers draw them close, tugging at their hands, attempting to pull them onto their laps, and sometimes even forcing hugs and kisses on them. During one particularly rousing round of musical chairs that I observed, a male patron slid onto a chair just as a waitress/performer was about to sit down. He buckled his arms around her waist and held her tightly as she tried to wiggle out of the embrace. Not everyone had exclusively negative experiences with urbanites. I also listened to stories of occasional urban kindness and generosity. For example, Yuli, a 20-year-old working in a suburban Beijing restaurant, shared this: The city people are very good to me. There was once when I had a cold—I was so sick. One of our guests—we often meet and chat, sometimes I go to their house to visit—when I was sick she gave me medicine. Another guest sometimes brings me gifts. These two guests and their families are really good to me.

A handful of workers shared similar stories of generous, kindhearted, affable urbanites. Women who worked in neighborhood establishments with a steady stream of regular clients were much more likely to have had positive and pleasant encounters with urbanites. But in ser vice outlets where customers enter and exit through a revolving door, with little chance of return, migrant workers are treated with less respect and courtesy.

Consumption as a Coping and Control Strategy I expected migrant women to bristle with indignation upon encountering the profound urban bias against them. On the contrary, they respond to the unflattering media representations and stinging urban prejudice with mortification over their rural origins. Once in the city, their self-confidence quickly withers. Workplaces with unpredictable

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penalties do little to buffer them from the indignities suffered at the hands of disrespectful customers. Responding to their own humiliation over stereotypes of rural backwardness, migrant ser vice workers endeavor to conceal their rural origins. They indulge in an urban world of consumption to remake themselves as urban women and socially flee from indictments of rural deficiency. In other words, they seek acceptance in urban worlds through using commodities that signal feminine urban sophistication.19 Urban customers are the primary audience for these efforts, and workers also take their cues from customers’ style and manner. In trying to decode and adapt to urban appearances, informal sector workers voluntarily perform symbolic labor (Lan 2001). Symbolic labor, such as altering appearance to express a value the employer desires to communicate, is usually organized and enforced through formal recruitment as well as through rules and protocols (Gottfried 2006; Warhurst and Nickson 2007; see also Chapters 2 and 3 in this volume). Migrants’ consumption practices reveal a self-initiated mode of ser vice (and symbolic) labor discipline. From the first day they set foot in the city, young women feel awkward and alien. Twenty-one-year-old Liuling evoked her retrospective sense of the village as a closed world: “We are like frogs in the bottom of the well. The world outside is entirely new to us.” Upon entering the city, migrants develop acute self-consciousness of their distinctive rural accents, which brand them as uneducated, uncultured, and lacking life experience. In response, they shrink from speaking out, fearing that their accents will betray their rural origins. Railing against Beijing natives, Lixiu described the silencing effect: Some young people come here at about the age of 16 or 17 and can’t speak the dialect, and the locals complain and scold them, so that they don’t dare speak again—just like me when I first arrived— even when they know they are right and reasonable, they don’t dare speak.

In the words of Xiaohe, an otherwise plucky café waitress, who wore five-inch platform shoes and a sparkly pink Hello Kitty T-shirt when I interviewed her, “No one knows where you are from when you don’t talk, but when you open your mouth then they know . . . you are a peasant.”20


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Taste, as expressed in clothing and styles of living, is unconsciously taken as a proxy for intelligence, morality, and education (Bourdieu 1984; Craig 2002). Migrants adopt new urban styles so that they might be regarded as people with human capacities and sensibilities like those of urbanites. The consumption of clothing and other items figures directly into labor practices, as migrants use them to influence the reactions of urban customers. In practice, strategic consumption offers workers the hope of managing urban concerns about cleanliness, rural naïveté, alertness, and educational backwardness.21 Women ser vice workers cloak themselves in makeup and accessories to avoid negative stereotypes, preempt patronizing lectures by urban customers, and stave off assumptions about their rural naïveté. In the process, migrants imbue simple products such as lipstick and makeup with myriad meanings related to their practical struggles for control and respect in the urban workplace (Certeau 2002). Few workers used makeup before entering the city. Wearing cosmetics signaled a transition to urban life and a coming of age as independent, wage-earning women who practice an urban bodily aesthetic and are modern consumers. One of the first items purchased by women new to the city is lipstick, which they carry with them in a pocket and reapply throughout the day. One worker mentioned to me that when her cousin returned to the village after working in Beijing, she gave her a tube to use when she searched for work. Eventually many young women add lip liner to their accessories and outline their already vividly painted lips with color a shade darker. Workers paint wide swaths of rosy red blush across their cheeks. Eyeliner usually outlines the entire eye in a dark black or blue circle. In most cases, women can afford only a few items of makeup. Wearing makeup quickly became part of workers’ daily routine. Chenmei explained, “Once you get used to putting it on, you want it on all the time. Otherwise you just don’t look as good—your lips are pale, your eyes are small, your skin is dark.” I watched migrant workers take out their makeup on the ser vice floor on a few occasions, consulting each other as they drew lipstick onto their lips or used foundation powder. Migrant women tend to use makeup more as a display accessory than as a means of accentuating or minimizing facial features. Cosmet-

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ics are applied thickly and in abundance, rather than blended into the skin to approximate their own coloring. Compared to the workers in the Transluxury Hotels, migrant workers adopt brighter and richer colors. They tend to use what they have amply, so that customers are quite clear that they possess and use makeup. In addition to the palate of color for lips and cheeks, skin whiteners are widely adopted by migrant workers, who are concerned about the sun-darkened tone of their faces, an immediate marker of their rural origins. In China, as in many cultures, feminine beauty is defined by light skin.22 A migrant worker selling makeup remarked, “Customers ask me how I can possibly sell cosmetics since my skin is so dark.” A few young women I interviewed used whiteners that bleached their faces slightly paler than their neck and hands. Perhaps they used such ample quantities of cosmetics as a way to combat stereotypes, including the impression that they are unclean and vectors of disease. When I asked them why they wore makeup, workers often shared comments similar to that made by Hongyang, a waitress from rural Zhejiang, who explained, “If you wear makeup . . . people think you’re a clean type.” Even though makeup serves no hygienic purpose, migrant women use it to socially communicate their conformance to hygienic practices such as frequent showers, brushing teeth, and washing hands.23 Ser vice workers believe that using cosmetics both invites and shows respect. Xiaohe asserted, “I like to dress in a way that tells people I’m a woman, I deserve your respect.” At the time, Xiaohe wore three-inch platform shoes, like so many migrant ser vice workers, who sought both to participate in urban fashion and to appear taller. She also wore ruby red lipstick and dark eyeliner painted across her eyelids. Workers suggested that cosmetics use expresses respect for customers by accentuating alertness, as a Kunming waitress, Zhanglei, indicated: “Putting on lipstick, I would look less tired; basically, I won’t look fatigued. The lips having a healthy glow makes me look happier, and in good spirits. So it’s showing respect to the customers.” Popular media images portray migrants as dumbstruck by urban life.24 To the extent that cosmetics add dramatic highlights to the eyes and brightness to the cheeks and lips, they combat stereotypes of migrants as slow and ineffectual.


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I observed the connection between makeup and respect made explicit in a beauty training course for migrant women sponsored by a national welfare program. The course included classes in hairstyling, makeup application, aesthetics, and vocational ethics.25 In a class of about forty students, the vocational ethics instructor enjoined: In interactions with people you must give them a positive impression, which starts from the head and includes character, personality, and a spirited appearance. Some female ser vice workers—whose hair is permed and dyed strange colors—the ones who wear huge earrings and have short hair with a tiny ponytail in back—they look like ghosts!

During the first week of class, a makeup instructor selected one student to receive a makeover, as she narrated step-by-step the application of each product: foundation, eyeliner, lipstick, and so on. But the teacher painted only one eye, blushed only a single cheek, and stopped the lipstick liner halfway across the lips. Upon completing the exercise she used a blank sheet of white paper to cover each half of the student’s face, rotating the model’s head for all to scrutinize. Concealing the unadorned half of the student’s face, she explained, “Guests will be much more respectful and you’ll look much more energetic this way”— then, concealing the side of the face that had been made up— “rather than looking shabby like this.” She continued, “The side with makeup looks energetic and healthy, compared to the side without—it shows respect.” The notion that the condition of a woman’s face invites respect or disrespect suggests that by virtue of their appearance women are accountable for the conduct of others. The lesson is that women exercise influence through beauty. Women inattentive to beauty solicit disrespect.26 Of course, not every migrant woman enlisted in a service training course. Regardless, the lessons taught in these courses articulated a widely held assumption: female ser vice workers solicit specific types of treatment from customers through their appearance. Migrant women working in the ser vice sector adopt these lessons, embracing the idea that using makeup is a vehicle for gaining and displaying respect. By wearing makeup and sophisticated clothing, young workers also signal that they are adult women, not girls who can be subjected to

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the directives of adults, as suggested by the phrase used to describe this labor force, “working little sisters” (dagongmei). The more overt use of bright and dark lipsticks and blushes in particular signals adult womanhood while countering the stereotypes of “little sister.” Becoming a proper adult woman also means indicating distinction from men on the body (West and Zimmerman 1987). Migrants not only use makeup but also adapt their physical mannerisms in an effort to look “soft” and combat widespread images of coarse rural women hardened by years of toil in the fields. One waitress discussed her aspiration to be “soft,” which meant distinguishing herself from boys: It’s not like boys who yell and are tough and mean . . . rambunctious [bengbengtiaotiao]. You can’t be like a boy. When you walk you should be a bit elegant. You don’t want to get fresh with people. Your hands and feet should dance. You must have a way of sitting, a way of standing. If you have your own view on things, if there’s something you want to do, people can prevent you from doing it. “Soft” is a type of praise; it’s a type of word that praises women.

Accustomed to manual labor in the fields, migrant women’s bodies are strong and robust, so passing as urban women requires particularly selfconscious investment, unlearning manners associated with rural work and learning to exude expressions of fragility that are associated with urbane feminine softness. I was frequently asked by migrant women to appraise their softness, typically understood as being gentle, quiet, graceful, and caring, and young women also inquired as to whether or not I wanted to be soft. Softness is an accomplishment, a valuable form of urban gender capital. For migrant workers, who earn minuscule wages, the price of softness is high. Even inexpensive brands of lipstick were costly, at 25 yuan (about US$3) a tube. For women making as little as 300 yuan (about US$40) a month, this was a substantial outlay. Softness has a dear price, as Lanmei described: Things are expensive here, a little bottle of cream costs 10 yuan [about US$1.20], shampoo 20 yuan [about US$2.40], and it’s not even that good. And if you want to buy some clothes, you really don’t have that much


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money. The expense is pretty high. Clothes are so expensive, you know, young girls want to dress nicely. So people at home tell us not to buy so much stuff, and save the money for a safety net.

Yaqing reported spending her first two months’ salary on clothing and lipstick. In her words, “I don’t wear a uniform, so I need to dress well.” Research among migrants in the cities of Beijing, Shenzhen, Wuhan, and Suzhou finds that out of all categories of migrant workers, young, single women were the least likely to remit income (Knight et al. 1999). This may be due, in part, to the high cost of conformity to urban standards of femininity. There were exceptions to the passing strategy. I spoke with three migrant women who refused participation in urban beauty culture. One was Yundan, a Beijing café waitress who developed a different selfpresentation strategy: “I try to be honest and down-to-earth. I try not to dress flashy. I don’t think I am pretty, so I don’t feel the necessity of making myself look worse by putting more stuff on my face.” Xiangling, who is 19 years old and from the impoverished county of Xuanwai in Yunnan, waited tables in a Beijing restaurant. Instead of spending money on makeup and clothing, she funded an addiction to snack foods: “I am fat because I like junk food. [When I receive my paycheck,] I first spend my money on necessities; then I spend the rest on whatever junk food I want.” Instead of trying to pass, Maluo, who sells office supplies, draws attention to rural poverty as a sales tactic: “I make them sympathize with me, you know, a young country girl working so hard trying to sell supplies. I tell them that back in my village my family eats porridge for every meal and that I often go hungry.” Workplace struggles are not the sole reason migrant women consume makeup and clothing. Many young women take pleasure in their urban self-reinvention and also bear in mind its benefits for attracting a desirable marriage partner. Their performances of gendered urbanity also become markers of status in their rural villages. Makeup and new clothes are explicit indicators of wage-earning status and newfound autonomy. But migrants’ new modes of self-presentation are most powerfully and immediately motivated by proximate concerns for maintaining respectability among the urban customers they serve in their jobs by

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striving to achieve an urban look. Their self-reinventions are embodied performances of femininity through which they attempt to shed the symbolic references to their putatively backward rural origins and embrace modernity (Ray and Qayum 2009). Some of the efforts to appear urban through adopting new styles of self-presentation exaggerated migrants’ differences from urbanites. For migrants, perception of the aesthetic requirements for acceptance in urban centers was filtered through a sense of culture and style very much influenced by their places of origin. Hence, their efforts necessarily reflected their practical schemata for displaying an aesthetic sensibility. The frequently exaggerated results of their endeavors to fit into the metropolis may also reflect attempts to overcompensate for their rural origins, to broadcast clearly and strongly their full participation and rightful inclusion in urban cultural life. Despite these filters and responses, ultimately their alterations of self reflect the exercise of urban control over their bodies, a form of control that they embrace, internalize, and take pleasure in.

Conclusion Why did Mingli and her roommates spend so extravagantly on their photo sessions, and what does this spending reveal about informal sector labor? When it is acknowledged that informal sector labor is mediated first by the employment legacy of the household registration system, second by an urban consumer market for relatively inexpensive ser vices, and third by the sense workers make of the urban bias they confront, we begin to appreciate how what once looked like frivolous spending is a strategic response to labor conditions. Migrants like Mingli confront the status anxieties and biases of urbanites. Upon entry into the urban center, they experience profound discrimination, which, as ser vice workers, they confront directly. Patterns of labor are therefore contoured by the status frustrations of urban consumers who confront a social and economic landscape shifting suddenly and dramatically. These anxieties produce a particularly acute need to seek distinction from rural peoples, who are popularly viewed as backward, impoverished, uneducated, unhygienic, of low quality, and


Aspirational Urbanism

lacking civility. In the informal ser vice workplace, urbanites therefore tend to criticize and dominate migrant women. The absence of formalized rules and guidelines for how to interact and manage their employment tasks disposes migrant women to seize onto the most convenient example for behavior and self-presentation. Their customers provide cues about how to interact but also seek to draw distinct boundaries between themselves and migrants. This lends customers a surprising degree of control and influence over migrant workers. Institutional embeddedness of labor in an employment legacy of the household registration system guarantees customer domination of workers by excluding migrants from legal protections, rendering them an extremely docile labor force, especially since their legal presence in the city is predicated upon maintaining employment. It constructs an institutional and social wall between migrants and urbanites, making migrants second-class citizens in the urban center. Without legal regulation of workplaces and with few rules or protocols to direct labor in the workplace, customers can readily direct workers’ labor. Instead of resisting urban disapproval, migrant women tend to absorb urbanites’ negative attitudes. Internalizing urbanites’ opinions, they respond with self-loathing and spend hard-earned wages on consumer items that offer some hope for soliciting urbanites’ respect. Through their commodity-enabled, self-imposed self-alterations, women workers adapt to the tastes, preferences, and expectations of urban consumers. They spontaneously conform their symbolic labor, the presentation of an aesthetic tied to the body, to urban gender and class expectations. In the end, workers filter new urban styles through their own understandings of “class,” femininity, and urbanity. These interpretations are often at odds with urban aesthetics so that even in their efforts to become urban they broadcast their rural origins: their urbanism remains aspirational. Chapter 5 provides an analytic juxtaposition of the three types of ser vice workers and labor regimes. It draws conclusions about the reach of imported service-labor practices and their embedding in consumer markets, work legacies, and workers’ own gendered schemata of meaning. Each set of workers bridges distinctive class, gender, and cultural divides; each develops strategies for straddling the divide be-

Aspirational Urbanism


tween their own class origins and that of their customers, at the same time limiting their own commodification and maintaining respectability on the ser vice floor. I also use the data presented in Chapters 2–4 to assess the potential for existing theories of ser vice labor to travel across cultural and social boundaries, suggesting ways that these concepts can be made more supple and capable of capturing the cultural dimension of ser vice labor.

5 Embodying Consumer Markets at Work

The transition of China’s metropolises from centers of manufacturing to focal points of ser vice has transformed the country’s urban landscapes. As bulldozers level residential housing and factories in city centers, a rising tide of shopping malls, retail stores, restaurants, boutiques, supermarkets, and beauty salons is left in their wake. These places of consumption are now the principal source of jobs for working-class women in urban centers. The accelerated development of an urban consumer ser vice sector provides an unusual opportunity to observe the formation, normalization, and quiet contestations of emergent gender and class inequalities that depart radically from the egalitarian Mao era. While ser vice workers just two decades earlier interacted mostly with neighbors and locals, who, for the most part, partook of a common lifestyle, today’s ser vice employees labor at the threshold of widening inequalities and confront customers from a bewildering array of social backgrounds (Davis and Wang 2009). Employers expect women workers to exhibit new levels of deference and adaptability to customers. These interactive requirements involve the transformation of workers’ bodies so as to satisfy the aesthetic expectations of diverse consumer markets. Global chains that follow the growing masses of travelers crossing national and cultural boundaries exert a powerful influence over new models of ser vice in a country that, under communism, had largely eradi-

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cated its ser vice traditions. These firms also endeavor to develop appeal among local populations. They include not only luxury firms but also fast-food corporations such as McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), and Pizza Hut. While the McDonald’s and KFC dining experience may be out of reach for most of China’s 1.3 billion people, it is of great appeal to China’s growing urban middle class. Indeed the pace at which such outlets are multiplying suggests that they draw customers from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. The Wall Street Journal reports that there are 1,100 McDonald’s outlets in China and the company plans to expand its presence to 2,000 outlets by 2013 (Fung 2010). As international consumer ser vice firms travel across national boundaries, they organize interactions between customers and workers, in the process introducing new norms of interaction. This global extension of consumer ser vices has only quite recently begun to prompt a shift in models and frameworks for comprehending the dynamics of labor. Research in the sociology of labor and globalization has clung to an industrial paradigm, while sociological studies of ser vice work focus on the United States, neglecting the international circulation of servicelabor models. Although there is a gradually growing body of scholarship on ser vice globalization, it reveals little about the variably patterned linkages between global firms and local ser vice practices because studies rarely compare labor conditions in diverse regional and sectoral settings.1 In general, studies of labor processes have only begun to examine labor regime variation by region at the subnational level (McDowell 1997; McKay 2006). As a unit of analysis, the nation-state is often implicitly taken as homogeneous. But global economic integration is a regionally differentiated process that forms the bases for vastly divergent conditions of labor (McKay 2006). How do firms adapt to local institutions and habits of interaction? If we look to existing theories of labor globalization, we are led to expect either a monolithic convergence of workplace practices, with global firms successfully supplanting local practices and interactive norms with new ones, or an infinite, unpredictable diversity in combinations of imported and local practices. By employing a regionally and sectorally comparative research design, this study situates ser vice work within differential urban connections to the global economy, connections that


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make some urban centers a point of diff usion of “global” (in this case, American) ser vice templates and norms of interaction, while other cities are recipients. In particular, this study gives us purchase on the problem of how imported forms of labor travel and gain traction within new arenas of employment. It sheds light on processes through which economic inequalities between consumers and workers are converted into interactive inequalities on ser vice floors within global, localized, and local service settings. As an alternative to the industrial paradigm of labor, the framework laid out in this book emphasizes the role of consumer markets in interactive labor that is bound by space and time. Unlike manufacturing labor, ser vice workers (with the exception of call-center workers) must be spatially and temporally proximate to customers. The cultivation of specific consumer markets explains the development of variegated servicelabor processes, interactive hierarchies, and worker dispositions across organizations, regions, and sectors. At first glance, it would seem that women in the three employment settings examined in earlier chapters share parallel work experiences: they told me that “the customer is God,” that they are expected to prioritize customers’ needs over their own, and that they all aspire to act like “soft,” proper ladies. In each setting workers execute roughly similar tasks. But the similarities end there. Upon closer inspection the three workers profiled at the beginning of this book, Limei, Yundan, and Shaolei, labor within workplaces that organize distinctive interactive labor practices, with each producing distinctive experiences of femininity and class. I use two concepts to explain the formation of interactive labor specific to each setting. The first, market-embodied labor, identifies the relationship between alterations of employees’ bodies at work and struggles for status distinction among consumers, as these are organized at the point of consumption. Market-embodied labor recognizes certain shared dimensions of manufacturing and ser vice labor. In drawing too absolute a contrast between the two arenas of work, we risk failing to appreciate the material dimension of ser vices. By shifting emphasis from emotion work and feeling rules to body rules that regulate the signs and symbols absorbed by workers’ bodies in the course of serving customers, we can better grasp how the physical, symbolic, and moral dimensions

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of ser vice labor interact with markets. The second concept, embeddedness, points to the ways in which embodied labor practices take root in— and are reconfigured by—historical employment legacies, as well as workers’ own local schemata of perception and value. It shows how imported labor practices gain traction within new arenas of employment as they combine with local employment legacies and workers’ long-held approaches to interaction. In the process, material inequalities between consumers and workers are converted into asymmetries of time, attention, social acknowledgment, care, and empathy within three different types of workplaces: global, localized, and local. The inculcation of new embodied norms of gender at once formulates and naturalizes inequalities between workers and customers. The body is a privileged site for constructing gender and inequality; in its perfected physical performances of gender and class, the body seems to testify to the biological inevitability of inequality. Together the concepts illuminate the formation of the different labor environments. I observed two types of market-embodied labor in the formal sector, each embedded in distinctive workplace legacies. The first, virtual personalism, is a simulation of intimate care: employees trained in the arts of emphasized femininity collect customer information, which is stored on computers, using the data to customize ser vice. Conventionally, ser vice customization develops over time out of regular, direct contact between customer and worker. In the information age, the ser vice space is no longer only a place to deliver a ser vice product but has become a fertile ground for collecting data about guest consumption habits so that workers can more efficiently tend to guest preferences. In a growing number of ser vice workplaces, employees not only deliver services but also, like miners of human practices, extract personal information about customers. Veteran miners accommodate the conditions of the mine; they learn its tunnels, capillaries, and sources of ore. Likewise, workers at the Beijing Transluxury Hotel (BT) learn the myriad details of customers’ habits of consumption. Managers creatively instruct neophyte employees to acquire an aesthetic appreciation of the behaviors and habits of the hotel’s wealthy clientele, so as to render guest activities visible and meaningful to them. In this way, workers absorb the consumption styles of affluent Western businessmen and adopt manners and


Embodying Consumer Markets at Work

gestures that are familiar to guests. In the end, guests need not engage in a lengthy process of forging familiarity with workers in order to receive personalized ser vice. The firm eliminates the time- and energy-consuming element of personal ser vice and choreographs personalism via computer technology. In the process, workers become part of what is consumed. The firm immerses them in an emphasized mode of femininity, training them to embody customers’ cultural and class expectations. They are disciplined to adapt facial and bodily expressions, new forms of bodily comportment, and hygienic routines to please these customers. The embeddedness of these personalized labor practices in socialistera welfare legacies enables managers to weld relations of trust and even intimacy with workers. Redistributive practices characteristic of socialism and flattened workplace hierarchies soften the boundaries between management and employees, rendering workers willing to trust managers. This trust makes workers receptive to managerial commentary on the most personal matters of hygiene and physical aesthetics. The new modes of interaction the hotel requires are also embedded in workers’ own practical cultural schemata. Employees view interactions with customers as so many face-giving gestures that imbue customers with status. Viewing ser vice as a face-giving interaction, the employee reinforces the customer-worker hierarchy. But face-giving also nurtures a latent critique of service inequality by recognizing workers’ agency in constructing customer status. This interpretation of ser vice denaturalizes conceptions of class otherwise rooted in innate taste and intellect and suggests that workers construct customers’ status. At the same time, treating interactions as hierarchical rather than egalitarian has unexpected advantages for workers. By viewing ser vice interaction as a hierarchical construct, workers gain distance from the intimacy and authenticity expected of U.S. service employees, who evince a comparatively democratic ethos of service labor (Hochshild 1983; Sherman 2007). They therefore reinforce the virtualness of virtual personalism. The second type of formal sector market-embodied labor, which I found at the Kunming Transluxury Hotel (KT), is virtuous professionalism. The KT’s owners localized the Galaxy Corporation’s global organizational template, enlisting managers (who are Chinese nationals) from Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, to coordinate operations.

Embodying Consumer Markets at Work


Recruiting these domestic managers, who are knowledgeable about local business practices, allows the hotel to adapt its ser vices to a local consumer market of affluent domestic businessmen traveling to Kunming to host business clients. The hotel focuses ser vices on entertainment for its clientele. This entertainment includes the attentions of female escorts, which are widely available for an extra sum. Instead of embedding ser vice work in a historical legacy of socialist welfare redistribution as is the practice at the BT, the KT’s owners reproduce another legacy of the socialist work unit, one that abrades rather than softens management-worker boundaries. The KT adopts a labor replacement system of recruitment that erodes relations of trust between managers and workers at the hotel. Female staff members struggle to defend their dignity among managers, who view them as backward, and customers, who, assuming they are sex workers, frequently touch and proposition them. In response to the violations of local terms of pride and feminine virtue, workers draw upon the professional protocols managers teach them to exercise control over the ser vice relationship and preserve their sense of virtue by coding their bodies as different from those of escorts. By wielding professionalism to assert their virtue, women workers endeavor to be taken as modern laboring subjects deserving of the respect of management and guests, rather than commodified objects that reflect on men’s status. These workers make a virtue of professional, yet insecure, low-wage work, contrasting it with the high-paying and morally dubious labor of escorts. Employees preserve a kind of feminine symbolic capital by upholding the moral order of female virtue that reflects positively on their families, while still participating as economic agents in the tourist industry. In this way, they valorize their own low-wage work as a reflection of female virtue while implicitly defining legitimate wealth accumulation as masculine. The informal sector reveals a different mode of market-embodied labor, embedded in yet another socialist structural legacy. In contrast to the two formal sector hotels, each of which orchestrates multiple ser vices in a single organization, the informal urban ser vice sector is comprised of a population of diverse and small ser vice outlets. This case study raises the question: Given the absence of large firms that direct ser vice workers to adapt to consumers’ status concerns, do workers still conform their


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behavior to the consumer market? I find that workers do in fact make profound adjustments of the body to adapt to the consumer market they ser vice. I trace these embodiments to a state administrative apparatus that exempts rural migrants from legal protections in urban centers. This administrative structure, the household registration system, maintains a low ceiling on wages. By guaranteeing an inexpensive labor pool, the government facilitates a low cost of living for urban dwellers and fills a vacuum created by the state’s retreat from welfare provision. By subsidizing a decent standard of living for urbanites, whose work is more directly linked to global capital, migrants help to underwrite China’s integration into the global economy. The young, female migrant workers who labor in the informal sector confront pervasive and acerbic antipeasant bias upon entering the urban center. In response to the ubiquitous depictions of peasants as uneducated, uncultured, and unworthy, migrants internalize a sense of inferiority. These youthful, impressionable workers interpret their degraded position in the urban social structure as a function of their lack of education, their unusual accents, and in general their “low quality.” The self-blame obscures the taken-for-granted state-erected institutional barriers to decent employment. Furthermore, self-blame creates the conditions for grudging acquiescence to degraded work conditions. Migrant women combat urban marginalization with arsenals of clothing, makeup, and accessories that they hope will offer them admission into the urban society as respectable, urbane women. Reflecting the migrant women’s ambition to become urbane, I call the informal sector variant of market-embodied labor “aspirational urbanism.” While the first two modes of marketembodied labor are organized by firms, the third mode is adopted spontaneously by workers in response to their exclusion from urban citizenship. These differential linkages between consumer markets and the bodies and symbolic labor of workers has important consequences for how we think about relationships between institutions, identities, and collective action.

Institutions, Intersections, and Collective Action This investigation of globalized ser vice work has several broader implications for the sociology of labor and gender. First, comparing

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workers in different organizations, regions, and sectors of the ser vice economy throws into relief the stratification of ser vice employment conditions that becomes the basis for unequal and diversely embodied experiences of ser vice labor for young women who are part of a single age cohort. The BT serves a global business elite and offers workers the most desirable working conditions, with generous benefits. The KT serves the domestic business elite and offers minimal benefits along with merely adequate wages, but work in both places is regulated by the state, so workers sign labor contracts and laws regulate wages, benefits, and overtime. Labor in the informal sector servicing a mass market of domestic urban consumers is unregulated by the state: workers earn paltry wages and conditions of labor are largely unregulated by the state. Women workers take on presentations of femininity that reflect their conditions of labor, with BT workers absorbing an emphasized mode of femininity, KT workers enacting an austere professionalism that underscores their virtue, and informal sector workers adopting markers of urbanity, which in the end brand them as outsiders. The three case studies illustrate how workplaces coordinate combinations of gender and class in regionally and institutionally situated modes. Intersections of gender, class, and race take on specific meanings and salience depending on institutional and regional contexts. This point was powerfully demonstrated by Patricia Hill Collins (2000), who analyzed the articulations of race, class, and gender that ordered social hierarchies in the antebellum slave plantation.2 The concept of market-embodied labor links the organizational development of inequalities to the cultivation of consumer markets by firms and state institutions. The coordination of these asymmetries in the workplace simultaneously draws on preexisting inequalities and encodes anew meanings linked to gender, class, and ethnicity. Each case study presented in this research illustrates these linkages, with women workers adopting class and gender practices associated with, and in response to, the consumer markets they serve. Firms attempt to adapt to the sensibilities of their consumers via the bodily labor of their employees. The bodies of workers are recrafted as workers kinetically and physically connect the firm to the customer through their bodily labors. The strategic conformance of bodily labor to the tastes of consumer market niches largely determines the art, texture, and nuance


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of the interactive inequalities that are converted from material asymmetries between workers and customers. The gender norms that are enacted through the body facilitate and naturalize class performance in two ways. First, they serve a disciplinary function, ensuring that workers defer to customers. Norms of feminine behavior, widely believed to originate in biology, become a vehicle for the inculcation of novel bodily schemata that are, in fact, class-based constructs of gender. Managers use these norms to direct worker behavior by accusing workers, for example, of “walking like men.” The shame bound up in failing to enact feminine norms on the body, when femininity is presumed to be rooted in biology, makes it a particularly powerful tool for managers to enforce compliance. Second, if gender obscures the functioning of class in the exercise of workplace discipline, it also naturalizes class on the ser vice floor. Femininity is a valuable, if somewhat intangible, component of the service product, proffered along with the material goods consumed at a given ser vice establishment. This is femininity’s aesthetic component that braids snugly into class. The strategies service employers use to appeal to the struggles for distinction among their target consumers include the presentation of class-inflected femininities. Struggles for distinctions of status invoke claims to naturalness (Bourdieu 1984). By presenting class taste as an outgrowth of a natural aesthetic, class position appears to be an innate rather than an acquired disposition (Bourdieu 1984). Class dynamics of power are obscured when, for example, selecting a fine wine or appreciating high art is attributed to an internal compass of good taste rather than an acquired ability to choose consumables that are palatable to a particular community. Gender facilitates such naturalization of class distinction. The display of gender, no matter how diverse from setting to setting, is widely assumed to stem from biological differences. By using feminine appeal to a target consumer market, firms naturalize male service recipients’ claims to class distinctions. The content of femininity— its meanings, methods of performance, elements of expression—is linked to these consumer markets. The new classed and gendered bodily enactments like those I observed in China’s ser vice sector are not achieved through a single organ-

Embodying Consumer Markets at Work


izational mechanism. At the BT, managers inculcate new bodily repertories, retraining women workers’ gaits, facial responses, ways of looking and seeing, and hygienic regimens. Although the KT managers focus workers’ labor on sales and detailed knowledge of the products purveyed at the hotel, it is the KT’s ser vice environment that prompts workers to self-initiate new bodily practices. But workers draw on managementpromoted professional protocols in so doing. In the informal sector, workers largely self-initiate new bodily aesthetic routines in order to pass as urbane women who would be taken seriously and treated with respect by their urban customers. Moreover, as workers struggle to represent themselves to customers as respectable women, they engage in forms of selfdiscipline that ultimately also serve as labor discipline. Even though in each case the immediate source of workers’ physical and social transformation varies, in all the workplaces examined here, consumer markets exercise overriding influence in shaping the content and direction of these transformations. In driving the stratification of ser vices, consumer markets may have consequences for patterns of collective action among workers struggling to ameliorate their conditions of labor. In her study of globalization and labor unrest, Silver (2003) identifies two types of power that facilitate collective mobilization of workers. The first, structural power, refers to the ability to interrupt production processes so that employers face the loss of revenue and business is held hostage to employee cooperation. For instance, in manufacturing, a work stoppage at one point along the assembly line disables downstream production. The stoppage ramifies throughout the line and possibly beyond. One approximation of this structural vulnerability in the ser vice sector may be what could be called a “social” or “tourist” assembly line. During key moments in tourist and business seasons, hotel workers can interrupt social and business functions by disrupting urban centers’ ability to host major functions and inflict damage on cities’ reputations. The labor of informal sector workers holds less potential for disrupting social and economic processes, especially in light of the large migrant labor pool. Migrant workers are highly replaceable. But the fi xity in place required by ser vice firms, which must locate in places of appeal to


Embodying Consumer Markets at Work

consumers, limits firms’ responses to worker protest. Firms cannot use the threat of relocation to gain acquiescence from workers. To interrupt a social assembly line requires a second form of power, associational. Associational power refers to the availability of social resources to coordinate collective action across workplaces and organizations. A 2001 worker action against the luxurious Raffles Hotel, Cambodia, illustrates this form of power. Workers at the property, near Angkor Wat, called a strike to protest the Singapore-based firm’s failure to distribute the hotel’s ser vice charge to workers. They eventually won an arbitration decision, and workers received approximately US$50 each as reimbursement (Hiatt and Greenfield 2005). The hotel rehired hundreds of workers who had been on strike and promised to distribute future ser vice charges to them. But the strike alone was not sufficient to alter the chain’s practices. Raffles succumbed to workers’ demands in part because the American Federation of Labor– Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) recruited the city council in San Francisco, California to defer zoning for a Raffles Hotel planned for that city until the Cambodian Raffles negotiated with workers. The AFL-CIO also brokered a deal with the U.S. Agency for International Development to cancel a hotel worker training program until Raffles accommodated workers’ demands. The firm finally relented in the face of international pressure.3 In the absence of the structural vulnerabilities of a capital-intensive production line, finding sources of leverage across organizational— and international— boundaries can be crucial to labor’s ability to effectively press for workplace rights and protections. However, divisions of workers can form the bases for conflicting interests that potentially weaken possibilities for creating solidarity across workplaces. The stratification of consumer markets and the division of workers into primary and secondary sectors may weaken workers’ associational power. As the bodily dispositions of ser vice workers adapt to the aesthetics of particular consumer markets, employees may feel a level of affinity for the consumer and alienation from workers in other workplaces and industries that could undermine the coordination of collective action across diverse workplaces. There is a third possibility for collective action among ser vice workers. Sullying a reputation through collective pressure and shaming practices may be a more effective approach than striking, since low-wage

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workers are easily replaced. Workers can potentially inflict damage on a firm by tarnishing its brand identity. The Janitors for Justice campaign represents such a strategy: in the Silicon Valley, janitorial staff working for custodial contractors target high-profile clients such as Apple and Hewlett-Packard who engage these contractors (Rudy 2004). They hold actions in thoroughfares, such as commercial areas and parks, to focus both public and media attention on labor abuses. By threatening the carefully cultivated brand names of high-profile firms that engage subcontractors’ ser vices, workers compel them to pressure the subcontracting firms to recognize their union and improve compensation (Rudy 2004; Savage 2006). To the extent that ser vice firms are committed to a spatial location, this strategy has greater leverage, since the firm cannot escape potential threats by simply changing location. Thus, firms’ own painstakingly cultivated cultural capital (in the form of their brand reputation) is one new source of vulnerability to be used in the defense of workers’ rights and interests in the ser vice sector. To fully understand these power relationships, we need to also situate work hierarchies in bodies and senses.

Situating Work in Bodies and Senses Linking consumer markets and bodily labor is an important corrective to the emotional-cognitive focus that has heretofore been applied to ser vice labor. The concept of emotion work, defined as the labor of displaying an affect so as to elicit a response in a customer, has had a particularly profound influence on the sociological study of ser vice labor (Hochschild 1983). To illuminate the psychological mechanics of emotion work, Hochschild compares it to Stanislavskian method acting. Method actors draw on their own personal memories to prompt the exhibit of emotion. Actors can induce the most natural display of emotions, it is assumed, by drawing upon highly resonant affective memories. So, for example, if an actor seeks to create an authentic display of anguish, she may remember a loved one’s death. Hochschild showed that airline managers ask workers to project warm, familiar images of their middle-class homes onto the passenger cabin, to enlist a sense of congenial familiarity with passengers. Workers extended an extant set of class and gender dispositions to the ser vice floor.


Embodying Consumer Markets at Work

The comparison of ser vice workers to actors who tame and summon emotion equates the worker with an artist, ready to self-consciously conduct a symphony of emotion, all to ensure an emotional response by the recipient and, ultimately, profit for the ser vice employer. This raises the question: Do workers enter the ser vice floor, even in the most grandiloquent of settings, with such drama and sense of emotional purpose? I think we gain even more leverage on understanding the labor of ser vice work by recognizing the differences as well as the similarities between acting and organizationally coordinated interacting. Unlike ser vice workers, actors do not anticipate individuals’ needs and responses. Actors do not do the bidding of customers. On the contrary, they are more likely to exercise control and influence over the audience through their arts. Actors create a world apart for their audience, a world that the audience enters. Indeed, actors have been deemed “elite emotion managers” (Orzechowicz 2008; emphasis added). Workers, on the other hand, enter into and navigate the class and cultural worlds of their customers. Therefore, while it has been useful for highlighting certain elements of interactive ser vice, the theater analogy presents limits for the study of ser vice as a form of labor. Additional issues arise in the application of the Stanislovskianinspired theory of emotion work to new cultural contexts. By using method acting as a model, the concept of emotion work reflects an individualist disposition in that it focuses on the personal interior as the wellspring of emotions and affective displays. It models ser vice interaction after an actor using an existing cache of memories to grasp and recreate the emotional world of a character. These memories may or may not represent accurate analogies for the narrative context. In relying on memories to produce displays of feelings, an actor projects her or his background onto a character, possibly limiting a richer understanding of how the social context creates unique experiences specific to historical, cultural, and social frames. Moreover, for cultural worlds that carry a legacy of highly formalized, ritual-like interaction, adapted to social hierarchies (such as Confucian-influenced societies), alternative theories of performance may provide a fuller understanding of the techniques used to adapt to— and resist—the interactive displays required by ser vice labor. Other schools of acting, such as Brechtian and traditional Chinese

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performance theory, reflect a less individualistic approach to performance. Brecht saw art as a medium or site for revolutionary struggle. One of the keys to Brechtian performance theory is alienation of the actor in relationship to the character. Alienation functions as a method for denaturalizing the theater, by showing the artifice of the theatrical production. Most important, Brecht’s characters are not repositories of feelings. Brecht developed his method and theory of acting (especially his ideas of the “distancing effect,” or alienation), inspired by the Peking Opera performance of Mei Lanfang, which he viewed for the first time in Moscow in 1935. Mei Lanfang was perhaps the most famous opera actor in modern Chinese history and, as was common practice in Chinese opera, was a man who specialized in performing female lead roles. Like the Brechtian method, the Chinese performance tradition, which extends from the fourth century BCE to Mao’s twentieth-century socialist realism, focused less on the actor than on the relationship between the actor and the audience, also emphasizing distance between the character and the actor (Schechner 1999). An actor’s relation with the audience was understood as pedagogical. It concentrated more intently on the reception of the performance by the audience than on the degree of authenticity or naturalism displayed: “From an early day, theater was seen as a way of reaching ordinary people who could not read. And at various times, theater served Confucian or Taoist thought, disseminated imperial edicts regarding proper behavior, helped people understand their place in the social hierarchy, or sowed revolutionary ideas” (Schechner 1999: x). Interestingly, the Chinese Communist Party adopted these theatrical methods and, through local theater, disseminated ideas, policies, and values that were embraced by the regime. The traditional Chinese and Brechtian schools of performance theory diverge from method acting in their focus on social context as a source of codes and symbols displayed on the body. The method draws on historical and collective experiences over individual experience to communicate meaning on the body. In short, the displays on the body are generated by external context, not by internal feelings. Of course, the ser vice workplace is not presently a site of revolutionary struggle. But elements of the Brechtian method may be useful for grasping the materialism of the service work relation. The Brechtian


Embodying Consumer Markets at Work

and other alternative schools of performance can illuminate a number of dynamics, including the role of the surface of the body as a site of codes and symbols and the directing of workers’ bodily manner to create a spectacle for customers. These schools of acting can also redirect focus to the didactic purpose of ser vice relations, albeit not to sow the seeds of revolution (as these methods were used under the Mao regime), but rather to comprehend how firms channel and condition the customers’ behavior through choreography, scripting, and preemptive service labor. They can also help better understand workers’ attempts to use bodily performances to induce particular customer behavior. Drawing from diverse theories of performance, then, opens up possibilities for alternative conceptions of the ser vice relation, which is especially useful when moving between cultural settings, giving us lenses to see and take seriously the role of ritual, formal social etiquettes, and pedagogy in the ser vice interaction. Such approaches to acting cohere with and deepen feminist theories of gender performance (Butler 1993; West and Zimmerman 1987). Butler makes the argument most forcefully that “performativity,” which connotes that identity is “inter-acted,” or performed, roots into the body, as the body is used to enact norms that are sustained through their repetition as well as through the explicit rejection of pariah identities. By shifting emphasis from cognition to embodied labor, the case studies presented here show that the bodies of ser vice employees are the locus of power relationships and negotiations that are the product of new class and gender inequalities at work. While in Hochschild’s classic study workers put a preexisting class orientation into play on the ser vice floor, in China I observed that workers were not asked to transpose dispositions from the home to the ser vice floor. Instead, managers strive to alter dispositions of workers through retraining their bodies and linking new ethics, values, and understandings to novel bodily experiences. Service labor is not naturalized as a middle-class home, as was the case for Hochschild’s flight attendants. Workers are to be cognizant of the differences between themselves and their customers, between their workingclass homes and the luxurious space of hotels, for example. Rather than reconstitute emotions to adapt to particular interactive occasions, the workers in China’s new ser vice sector acquire new hygienic, olfactory, comportment, and self-presentation routines that are wedded with sensi-

Embodying Consumer Markets at Work


bilities about class and gender respectability. I found the practice of interactive labor to center less on self-conscious manipulation of feelings to induce pleasing reactions from customers and more on the enactment of protocols that are physical. This study links these alterations of bodies to markets and thereby illustrates how economies are embedded in the body and bodily senses. Understanding how economic activity roots in the body, particularly in the senses, provides a more complex model of economic life than one based on the rational decision making of individuals (Swedberg forthcoming). The senses are not simply conduits for a natural world that individuals experience in an unmediated fashion. Social process mediates sense perceptions. Shared assessments of sense experience (aesthetics of smell, taste, touch, that please or repel) are used to draw social boundaries. Senses are a resource through which groups define their own identity, by sharing, for example, an affinity for certain foods, art, music, and so forth. Therefore, acts of consumption form communal boundaries and hierarchies. And these sensibilities anchor material inequalities in physicality. Senses are a vehicle through which material inequalities are integrated into bodies, naturalized as biological, and mobilized to draw distinctions between groups. In reflecting on how he learned meanings and reactions associated with class, George Orwell comments on his own experience of qualities of class division that entrench in bodily sense: That was what we were taught—the lower classes smell. And here, obviously, you are at an impassable barrier. For no feeling of like or dislike is quite so fundamental as a physical feeling. . . . Very early in life you acquired the idea that there was something subtly repulsive about a working-class body; you would not get nearer to it than you could. (Orwell 1937: 128)

Likewise, Simmel (1997) recognizes the appraisal of aromas as a source of division between the working and middle classes, to the extent that the middle classes take offense at the bodily odors generated by manual laborers. Simmel argues that smell is the most intimate of senses, since it takes shared air into the body. An important way that class boundaries are drawn and incorporated into physical responses, then, is through the development of


Embodying Consumer Markets at Work

hygienic and aesthetic practices differentiating bodies, coding the bodily displays of “others” as unclean, repulsive, or otherwise distasteful. These codings frequently take on a moral valence, with cleanliness and dirt at opposite ends of the spectrum of virtue. In this process some physical senses, like smell, may be more acute and readily manipulated than others. Physical habituation to such social antiseptics as deodorants, breath fresheners, shampoos, and other fragrances predispose individuals to sensory offense from odors produced naturally from the body. Work that produces sweat and involves dirt leaves a direct and lasting physical imprint on those accustomed to modern hygiene through the sensory effects it induces, and the social interpretations of such effects. The senses tie humans physically and semiconsciously into modes of social stratification. The binding of sense and ethics ultimately forms a basis for a class hierarchy that combines biology and culture. Firms tap into, extend, and coordinate such patterns of meaning. Because ser vice firms appeal to consumers’ sense aesthetics—their palates, ears, eyes, nose, and touch—particular kinds of bodily labor are required. Consumer ser vice employers use employees’ bodies for minor forms of manual labor but, more important, to convey signs and symbols that fit into consumers’ sense of collective identity as members of a class, gender, or culture. The cultivation of physical “sense-abilities” that affect and direct consumers’ sense experiences necessarily focuses on the bodies of workers in the workplace itself, as employers impose new hygienic regimes to make the laboring body appropriate and inoffensive when in proximity to customers. In contrast, manufacturers do not require workers to convey signs and symbols about the firm to a public of consumers; ser vice work is unique in this respect. Such modalities of the use of the body, or body rules, are historically and geographically specific. The methods of socially generating certain kinds of sense experience form one basis for body rules, or the socially accepted norms for the physical communication of messages. By placing the body at the center of ser vice work, it is possible to move beyond a cognitive construct of ser vice labor and escape the dualism of mind and body, in which the mind is conceived of as separate from, and superior to, the body. By beginning with the body, we root consciousness firmly in the material and relational world.

Embodying Consumer Markets at Work


Conclusion The shift in the composition of China’s urban economies to ser vices reflects a trend occurring in many global urban centers (Sassen 1991). Hence, this book is part of a larger story about how urban transitions from industrial to ser vice economies prompt transformations in employment landscapes and thereby also a shift in class and gender relations. By examining the construction of ser vice work as a new form of labor within China’s economic transition, we gain insight into taken-forgranted gender and class inequalities constituted by modern consumer ser vice industries. Ser vice workers reach across class, gender, race, ethnic, and national divides and negotiate relations with an increasingly diverse customer base. In light of these shifts, Hochschild’s seminal study The Managed Heart (1983) bears the imprint of an earlier historical moment, when middle-class airline flight attendants (who were the focus of her research) served a relatively class-, gender-, and race-homogeneous clientele. Today, urban centers are increasingly cosmopolitan, and ser vice workers frequently hail from lower-class, geographically removed neighborhoods (Sassen 1991). Each case in this study reflects ser vice labor under conditions of globalization, in which consumers, employers, and workers traverse spatial boundaries and ser vice workplaces structure interaction between individuals from vastly divergent cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. They acquire new interactive repertoires that combine with prior dispositions, through regular practical engagement as well as adaptation of these repertoires. As growing numbers of workers worldwide enter into low-level consumer ser vices, where they negotiate widening class and cultural divides, our theories of labor need to keep pace. The concepts of marketembodied labor and embeddedness allow researchers to compare and discover order in the otherwise bewildering proliferation of labor practices in the ser vice sector. The concepts provide a framework to comprehend interaction between global and local practices, by finding a middle ground between models of globalization that emphasize either the homogeneous imposition of global practices, like new institutionalism, or the infinite diversity of global-local combinations of practice. They shine light on the relationships of global capital, consumer markets,


Embodying Consumer Markets at Work

local institutional legacies, and workers’ identities as they adapt to new forms of work on ser vice floors. Many questions about the ser vice workers who are the subjects of this study remain. The questions for female urban ser vice workers, who will inevitably be forcibly relieved of their ser vice jobs as they approach the age of 30, are: “What kind of work awaits me in the future?” “What kinds of skills can guarantee that I have access to employment well into maturity?” When I asked my interviewees about plans for the future, most offered embarrassed and vague responses such as “I hope to find a job at a foreign firm.” Even if they had high expectations, they could not specify how they might be realized. Many hoped to meet the right business executive who would recognize their talents and hire them into a management-track position. Myths about “someone who worked here a few years ago” being hired into these jobs swirled about the hotels. But most commonly I listened to workers convey a deeply felt “sense of crisis” (weijigan) looming over their futures. The question of future employability remains unanswered, and it will be the task of new research to investigate what happens to China’s women ser vice workers after their “spring rice bowl” is empty. Certainly, women who reach an age threshold are subjected to a different set of culturally proscribed and prescribed bodily labors. Do they manage to parlay the forms of femininity learned in their interactive work into new work opportunities? Does their tenure in ser vice affect marriage prospects? Will they face a greater risk of divorce if they have difficulty finding future work? How will they view their years spent working in ser vice in retrospect? Of course, such concerns are even more acute for migrant workers, whose presence in the urban center is tenuously based upon ongoing employment. All of these questions remain to be answered by future research.

Afterword Embodiment, the Research, and the Researcher

I have not conducted a “carnal” ethnography (Wacquant 2006) in the sense that I did not subject myself directly to the bodily and interactive regimens workers experienced. As a woman socialized in an American middle-class model of femininity, I take for granted much of what was taught at the hotels featured in this study: when to smile, how to smile, how to walk and talk, and so on. Furthermore, having worked in a number of ser vice jobs in the United States (aerobics instructor, retail clerk, waitress in a Chinese restaurant, restaurant hostess, legal secretary, receptionist, fund-raiser), I have already undergone substantial training in the arts of ser vice. Clearly, I could not become an urban or rural migrant Chinese woman, raised in a family that experienced the desperation associated with the Great Leap Forward or the tumult of the Cultural Revolution. My strategy was to watch, listen, and learn as best I could, using my senses to collect data, but never assuming my experience of embodiment was akin to the women who are the subject of this study. Workers’ history and local cultural comprehension mattered deeply for how they construed and managed their work. This I could never access directly. While the study is not a carnal ethnography, ethnography is always an embodied experience. Recent studies suggest that ethnography can be conducted by way of textual analysis (Farquhar 2002). My own view



is that ethnography requires that the researcher insert her or his body into the research process, using her or his physical sensibilities in various ways as a research tool (Wacquant 2006). I am not suggesting that these sensibilities provide data that are in some absolute sense more reliable than texts. Sensory reactions are subjective and partial sources of information. But they provide a specific point of departure for grasping shared and divergent experiences. It is therefore fruitful to consider one’s embodiment in relationship to data collection. My own embodiment as a Western woman, beyond the maximum age of work for ser vice workers in China, placed me in a peculiar position in each setting. First, Westerners, particularly Americans, enjoy a certain amount of cultural and symbolic capital in China. Despite national tensions that arise regularly, the United States is widely regarded as a pinnacle of modernization and a source of popular culture. American cultural products, such as Disney cartoons, McDonald’s hamburgers, the National Basketball Association, popular music, and Hollywood movies, enjoy enormous popularity in China. Being a white American and a native speaker of English endowed me with substantial cultural capital in the ser vice environments, especially at the hotels. I was also occasionally an object of curiosity, and workers regularly commented on my differences from them: my blue eyes, my comparatively larger stature, and my brown, wavy hair. But my physicality also posed limits to the ethnography by affecting my access and therefore the kinds of information available to me. I was not as privy to male spaces as I was to female spaces in the hotels. Whereas I could chat with women workers as they put on makeup in the locker room and primped in the bathroom, I could not enter private male spaces and interact with male workers as they shaved and otherwise prepared themselves for work. I could also not gain access to the video surveillance room in one hotel, to guest rooms, to private offices, and to meetings of the Chinese Communist Party convened regularly at the hotels.1 Other than these spaces, I had extraordinarily free and open access to every other area in the hotel and could move about at will. While workers were banned from moving through the lobby and using public guest restrooms (unless they were assigned to work there), I was allowed



free access to these spaces. My status as a Westerner and as the hotel’s English teacher allowed me the privilege to move through these spaces with ease. My familiarity with Western class and gender norms allowed me to feel relatively comfortable in these spaces. But the area that became the most propitious for informal interviewing was the workers’ canteen, where I informally chatted about the day’s events with workers and managers. The formality required in other parts of the hotel were suspended in the canteen. There workers laughed out loud, sometimes yelled, and cavorted with others. The canteen was a relatively egalitarian space, not defined by uniformed bodies, and all categories of worker could roam and interact at will, including the ethnographer. Everyone seemed more relaxed and comfortable in the workers’ canteens, and I had many a pleasant lunch socializing with workers. At one lunch, when I made a joke in response to a manager’s story, the secretary sitting across from me, unable to hold her laughter, sprayed her entire mouthful of soup onto me. She and everyone else sat in mortified silence awaiting my reaction as I surveyed the damage to my dress and dignity. I burst out laughing, and was followed by peels of laughter by the others. The secretary apologized profusely and took my jacket for dry cleaning. My response suggested that I too did not stand on formality, that I could laugh at myself and not take the usual hierarchies too seriously. Despite the limits in my ability to carnalize my ethnography, I did observe in myself some of the same insecurities that workers experienced on the job. To fit in at the Beijing Transluxury I voluntarily wore makeup, something I was unaccustomed to, and adhered to the exacting requirements for dress, hairstyle, and jewelry. On the rare occasions when I transgressed a rule or two, by not wearing lipstick, for example, I felt acutely self-conscious and immediately corrected my behavior. The luxury environment prompted self-scrutiny of my dress and comportment. At the Kunming Transluxury, I was once mistaken for a sex worker and felt a disturbing loss of control over how customers interpreted my body, an experience women workers and escorts encounter regularly. In the informal sector, however, I could understand the experiences of migrant women only as I observed them and spoke with them in interviews. The degradation of being categorized by urbanites as country bumpkins and as potential criminal threats, as well as being subject to extreme social



exclusion, was beyond my own experience. It did become clear to me, however, that for these young women, being seen in public with me, an American, was a positive source of status. Contemplating how bodies fit— or don’t fit—into sites of field research is important for grasping the ways that social contexts facilitate and limit the acquisition of data. The marking of bodies by gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, age, culture, and class can provide gateways or pose barriers to research settings. This in turn has consequences for the production of knowledge about the social world and for who can study what kinds of settings. This does not mean that scholars whose bodies are different from informants in the research setting are necessarily at a disadvantage. On the contrary, researchers with distinctive identities may elicit forms of information inaccessible to those who share the dominant bodily disposition. In the end it may be that the triangulation of research by researchers from diverse backgrounds is the best way to assure access to the full range of experiences at a field site. This speaks to yet another reason to diversify the academy.

Reference Matter


Introduction 1. This and all other names used in this book are pseudonyms. 2. The shift in occupational and economic composition reflects a larger global trend in which urban centers have transitioned from manufacturing to ser vices (Sassen 1998). 3. Earlier presentations of this research used the term “market-embedded labor” and identified components of the ser vice labor observed as emotion work (Otis 2008). Using existing theoretical framing hindered a full appreciation of the importance of the body to ser vice work and the relationship of workers’ bodies to consumer markets. This book revises my earlier formulations in order to understand fully the ways the body is used in ser vice labor. 4. In a study of high-end retailers in the United States, Williams and Connell (2010) find that these employers seek out workers whose class socialization, taste, and consumption practices reflect the style of the product line they sell (see also Warhurst and Nickson 2007). 5. Economic sociologists adopt the concept to refer to cultural, social and political substrata that enable economic orga nization and exchange (Biggart 1989; Block 1990; Polanyi 2001 [1944]). Embeddedness refers to the mutual constitution of formal market processes and cultural institutions, countering the belief (widely held by neoclassical economists) that modern economies are highly formalized, rational organizational forms that transcend non-rational modes of human activity like religious, ritual, and longstanding cultural practices. I use embed to denote the processes articulation with, and adaptation to, local practices. 6. The literature on manufacturing does consider movement of labor practices across national boundaries, but it is of limited value when seeking to understand the specific constraints facing ser vice firms or the specific nature of ser vice labor and its consequences for ser vice workers whose job is to interact with customers. 7. Hochschild does suggest that there are bodily techniques that are part of doing emotion work, defined as “the attempt to change somatic or other physical symptoms


Notes to Introduction

of emotion (e.g., trying to breath slower, trying not to shake)” (1979: 562). Despite this recognition, her empirical work emphasizes mental techniques of emotion work. 8. The notion of “surface acting” (Hochschild 1983), defined as altering a physical presentation without a corresponding intervention at the level of emotion, suggests a disconnect between body and emotion, whereas I suggest that bodily transformation is linked to feelings and sensibilities. 9. For example, at one point the male physical gesture of opening a door for a woman was widely taken as polite, respectful, and caring, whereas today the same gesture can be taken as patronizing for its suggestion that a woman may not be able to open the door herself. The relationship between the gesture and the expected emotion has altered. 10. Of course, until very recently, women have been systematically excluded from contact sports that reward bulk and upper-body strength, such as wrestling, football, rugby, and ice hockey. 11. Mao and male intellectuals like him took up the issue of foot-binding as an example of the brutal effects of Confucianism on women. But in championing the cause of women, these young revolutionaries failed to give their female comrades much of a voice in designing their own liberation. When Ding Ling criticized the CCP leadership for perpetuating sexist practices, she was denounced. It is difficult to separate these criticisms of oppressive practices from this generation’s own self-interest in eliminating Confucian practices that forced younger men’s submission to the authority of the eldest male of their clan. By making women “victims,” they also foreclosed the possibility of women speaking and acting in their own self-interest (Otis 1999). 12. By viewing resources as not only material but also symbolic and cultural, Bourdieu’s framework represents an effort to transcend dichotomies of class and status that have characterized Marxist- and Weberian-inspired studies of inequality. The complex and rich conceptualization of asymmetrically distributed resources helps to reconcile these conflicting approaches to class that identify its source as stemming either from the workplace, in a worker’s relation to capital and management, or from the marketplace, in the form of status that derives from consumption patterns and opportunities. Social, cultural, economic, and symbolic capitals circulate in both of these spheres of activity, workplace and marketplace. These resources, or capitals, are not merely possessed or owned; they saturate all physical activity (including that which occurs in the marketplace and the workplace) with meanings and consequences associated with social position. 13. This is also akin to the notion of “performative” used by Butler (1993). 14. Bourdieu maintains that habitus congeals in early childhood socialization, but I suggest that it can be altered through intensive organizational interventions, such as those within China’s new ser vice workplaces. 15. Gottfried uses the term “aesthetic labor” to characterize the ways in which the bodies of Japa nese ser vice workers convey cultural and status meanings to customers.

Notes to Introduction


16. When men perform ser vice labor, their bodies may also act as “sign-bearing capital.” But women’s bodies are at this historical juncture more readily able to signal care and nurture, and reflect status on men. Petiteness, sex appeal, youth, and beauty are valuable not in the abstract but when they are embodied by women. Men are unlikely to be positioned as “sign-bearing” capital in the ser vice workplace or in society at large. This does not mean that men’s bodies cannot be constructed as “sign-bearing capital.” Which bodies become repositories of value to be possessed by others is a function of the historical distribution of power and meaning within a given social order. 17. Traditionally female ser vice workers in conventionally respectable women’s occupations (nurse, secretary, librarian, teacher, etc.) have been expected to project middle-class femininity (Banet-Weiser 2000) or, in R. W. Connell’s (1987) terminology, “emphasized femininity,” defined as sexual modesty, attending to the interests of others, and deferential behavior. Such attributes are core components of feminine capital. Skeggs (1997) traces this norm of femininity to the British middle classes, who, through the colonial activity of missionaries, bureaucrats, entrepreneurs, and the military, installed it as a model within the Commonwealth for all classes of women to aspire to as a means of justifying the colonial project through moral betterment, which was, in turn, linked to economic prosperity. In general, the middle and upper classes define norms of legitimate and respectable femininity, and given the cosmopolitan circulation and aspiration of these classes in a wide range of places, gender norms are particularly susceptible under colonialism as well as contemporary globalization to the influence of such Western models of respectable womanhood. The substance of middle-class femininity evolved during the British Industrial Revolution, with the historical division of home and work as oppositional spheres of activity. Proper middle-class women were assigned to the private sphere, where the cultivation of sexual virtue, propriety, hygiene, nurture, and selflessness reflected on the status of the family. These properties cohere to a certain extent with elements of the traditional Confucian family ideal predominating in the late Qing dynasty, in which women were expected to be keepers of the inner chambers and protectors of morality, and to show deference, selflessness, and virtue, which reflected on their families (Bray 1997; Ko 2005). They could bring honor to enhance the family status or shame that would humiliate it. But practices of footbinding and the exclusion of women from educational structures were denounced by the British (Ko 2005). Both the British middle-class and the Confucian models of femininity were denounced by the Chinese Communist Party and supplanted by new norms of proper gender behavior shaped by socialist norms and objectives (see Chapter 2). But with the shift from the Mao-era socialist planned economy to the market economy, the value, recognition, and status of the once valorized working class declined dramatically and new forms of cultural, social, and material capital gained value (Lee 2007; Rofel 1999). Modes of femininity associated with consumption, beauty, charm, and virtue, all of which were once denounced under the socialist regime, have


Notes to Introduction

become de rigueur and are promoted through the media, schools, firms, and schools (Zhen 2000). Transnational organizations (e.g., ser vice firms, the global mass media, and nongovernmental organizations) transmit, reinforce, and elaborate these elements of femininity. 18. This is especially true for men who work with children; in the United States, if a kindergarten teacher or day-care worker is male, parents are likely to register concern (Williams 1995). 19. The recent global polarization of wealth creates one basis for the stratification of consumer markets, as firms create luxury goods and ser vices to appeal to global elites. While fifty years ago the most affluent region in the world was 1.8 times wealthier than the poorest, today the wealthiest region’s per capita income is 20 times the income of the poorest (Basu 2006). These trends are replicated on the national level: The United States claims the greatest levels of income inequality among the world’s advanced economies, with extreme concentrations of wealth among the top 1 percent (Weeks 2007). Between 1990 and 1998 the wealthiest 1 percent experienced an eightfold rate of income increase compared to the bottom 90 percent, after adjustments for inflation (F. Wang 2008). Urban inequality in China follows a similar pattern. In the decades since 1978, when Deng Xiaoping set into motion policy and institutional changes that brought about China’s market transition, the country has shifted from one of the most economically equalitarian societies in the world to one of the three most unequal (F. Wang 2008). With enthusiastic government support enshrined in the eleventh five-year economic plan, consumer spending in urban China has skyrocketed (Davis 2000), and the country’s share of global consumption is predicted to overtake the United States by 2020 (Wassener 2009). Firms tap into the distinction struggles of a growing global and national capitalist class of elites who increasingly traverse national boundaries. As the affluent from throughout the world visit and even make their homes in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, they import lifestyles and consumption expectations that are often incorporated into the consumption styles of locals. 20. Robert Frank (2008) describes butlers who earn $80,000 a year serving the hyperwealthy classes. Meanwhile, domestic workers cleaning floors for the middle classes earn relatively meager sums (Parreñas 2001). 21. As a class of the new hyperwealthy engage in purchasing and display practices that distinguish them from those less fortunate, they also raise the status bar for others. Luxury consumption reverberates throughout the consumer universe, and other consumers react, through either differentiation, or rejection, or emulation (Bourdieu 1984; Schor 1998). Indeed, by generating status anxieties through marketing, highly stratified market segmentation frequently trickles down, enticing less affluent consumers to purchase higher-priced goods and ser vices (Frank 2008; Schor 1998). The extensive differentiation of customers stratifies niche markets in every product arena, from clothing, food, cars, and toys to beer, cosmetics, and tourism (Cohen 2003; Cook 2004; Davila 2001).

Notes to Introduction and Chapter 1


22. On manufacturing firms’ search for low-cost operating environments, see Chan (2003). Capital-intensive manufacturing industries can be less peripatetic than those with low capital investments. Highly innovative manufacturing operations also require a degree of spatial commitment (See Romo and Schwartz 1995). 23. There are exceptions. According to Sassen (2000: 144), “Rising costs may eventually drive out otherwise placebound industries.” 24. For example, in a sweeping theorization of globalization from the ethnographic ground up, Burawoy et al. (2000) posit “supranational forces, transnational connections, and postnational imaginations” as modes of explaining global-local connections. Incarnated through an array of cases of globalization throughout the world, these notions give order to a panoply of global-local articulations but still leave us with only a schematic mapping of the routes global forms take as they hit new cultural and institutional terrain. 25. These data included employee rule handbooks from both hotels; data on hiring, firing, and work penalties; promotional materials; materials from the Migrant Women’s Home, including eight issues of Rural Women Knowing All, a magazine published by the state agency that operates the Migrant Women’s Home; and newspaper articles that were relevant to the case studies.

Chapter 1 1. To protect themselves from sexual abuse by overseers and violent harassment from local gang members, they formed mutual aid societies (Honig 1985). 2. They also advocated mea sures such as freedom of choice in marriage that promised to liberate young men from the tyrannies of the generational hierarchy characteristic of Confucian orders. 3. In the almost forty-year interregnum between the fall of the last dynasty and the rise of the CCP, multiple models for reorga nizing gender relations were promulgated (see Barlow 2004; Otis 1999). 4. See Britton (2000) for an analysis of the distinction between occupational sexsegregation and the promotion of characteristics associated with femininity in the workplace. 5. The extent to which managers were successful at obliterating conventional bodily expressions of femininity remains a subject of some dispute (Chen 2003). Certainly the depth of such gender erasure varies throughout the Maoist period. Furthermore, there is evidence that women workers adorned otherwise unisex uniforms and factory garb by tailoring, belting, and adding touches of fabric (Ip 2003), while the party-run magazine Chinese Women (in Chinese) instructed women in the finer points of color coordination and skin protection (Ip 2003). Chen (2003) argues that the CCP sought to create a proletarian-based female socialist subjectivity that did not erase gender but expressed it through participation in collective struggle and labor. In the


Notes to Chapter 1

end, recognizing that gender is always expressed as a relationship, we must acknowledge that while women looked more like men than they had in earlier eras, they were certainly readily distinguishable from men, and gender differences continued to be marked in many arenas of social life. 6. Honig (2003: 150) argues, “The accusations of sexual immorality directed at female ‘class enemies’ were articulated at precisely the same time that ‘revolutionary’ female Red Guards, free from parental control and protection and free to travel throughout China, on the one hand, were able to engage in sexual experimentation and, on the other hand, were vulnerable to extraordinary levels of sexual abuse.” 7. Similarly, many ser vice employers, including state agencies, routinely mandate minimum height requirements for women workers. The standard I most frequently encountered was that women are to at least five feet four inches tall. Height is generally equated with health and beauty. 8. In the two cities combined, hotels and restaurants alone employed 293,000 workers in 2004 (Statistical Yearbook of China 2005). 9. Each week of vacation is estimated to generate more than $3.5 billion in revenue for businesses in China (The Economist 2000). 10. China’s statistical yearbooks do not provide aggregate data for women in ser vice occupations. I arrived at the figure of 46 percent by combining employment categories in the Labor Statistical Yearbook of China 2000: Wholesale and Retail Trade and Catering Ser vices; Finance and Insurance; Real Estate Trade; Social Ser vices; Health Care, Sporting, and Social Welfare; Education, Culture and Arts, Radio, Film, and Television. I arrived at the figure of 34 percent for non– service sector industries by combining categories: Farming, Mining, Manufacturing, Production; Supply of Electricity, Gas, and Water; Geological Prospecting and Water Conservancy; Transport, Storage, Post, and Telecommunications; Scientific Research; Government Agencies; and Other. The figures are weighted averages of these categories. 11. Women also make up 67 percent of teaching personnel in Beijing and 61 percent in Kunming, 12. As one commentator notes, “Urban speech is now inundated with various Misses: Miss Ceremony, Miss Public Relations, Miss Shopping Guide, and Miss Real Estate, to name only a few. As an emergent, highly visible social group, the Misses are also referred to in popular discourse as the ‘pink-collar class’ ” (Zhen 2000: 6). 13. Researchers have found that as an institution the work unit has diverse origins. These include the rural system of security and household registration of the imperial days, known as the baojia system; a presocialist urban, corporate communal culture (Yeh 1997); associations of skilled artisans linked to the CCP (Perry 1997); and supply organizations of the communist base areas at the time of the revolutionary wars (Lu 1997). 14. The scarcity of consumer goods and ser vices in the Maoist and early reform eras made provisioning at the place of employment all the more critical (Walder 1986: 17).

Notes to Chapter 1


15. While these benefits are regulated by the national labor law, their implementation varies dramatically. 16. The system eliminated opportunities for direct contact between urban and rural dwellers; hence, the peasantry was generally unaware of the privileges enjoyed by urbanites. 17. It is young women who are made most vulnerable by the paucity of productive activity; they are the first to be sidelined from agricultural work. The large-scale labor surplus created by decollectivization pushes women out of the countryside to seek wage labor in urban centers. 18. This policy is being relaxed unevenly throughout the country. The policy was not as strictly implemented in Kunming; the Kunming Transluxury employs migrant workers in backstage jobs—washing dishes, working in the laundry area, and cleaning rooms. At present, the household registration system is being dismantled in Kunming but continues to function in Beijing. 19. Work in manufacturing tends to be concentrated in the southeast coastal special economic zones (Chan 2001; Lee 1998), whereas all urban centers employ ser vice workers. Men perform various types of manual labor, most often on construction sites, but also hire themselves out to urbanites for painting and remodeling. Others invest in three-wheeled carts and provide small-scale transportation ser vices. 20. This determination is based on a range of diverse but intercorrelated mea sures of economic and social development, including total commodity sales; gross value of tertiary industry; total bank loans and number of medical doctors; population size; output value of the printing industry; output value of the food processing industry; annual gross receipts of the posts and telecommunications; total annual freight by land, sea, and air; number of health-care agencies; number of teachers in informal schools and higher; and total holdings of public libraries (Skinner et al. 2000). 21. The other seven macroregions are Manchuria, Northwest China, Upper Yangzi, Middle Yangzi, Lower Yangzi, Southeast Coast, and Lingnan. 22. These indicators feature ser vices as well as industry. Technological, social, and economic innovations also diff use from core to periphery within the macroregional structure. At the same time, macroregions can be compared and ranked in terms of the same mea sures indicated previously. 23. Most of the DFI China received in the 1990s entered eastern cities and provinces, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, and Jiangsu, which together received a total of 87 percent of China’s DFI (Wei and Liu 2001: 29). 24. The size of Beijing’s migrant population increased by 196 percent between 1999 and 2000 (Liang and Ma 2004). 25. The western provinces include Sichuan, Guizhou, Guangxi, Ningxia, Tibet, Xinzhang, Shaanxi, Yunnan, and the municipality of Chongqing. This region comprises more than half of China’s total land mass but is inhabited by less than a quarter


Notes to Chapter 1

of China’s total population of 1.3 billion. The bulk of this investment has been poured into the development of infrastructure for extracting natural resources, for example, the building of a railway from Qinghai to Tibet and a natural gas pipeline that reaches from Xinjiang to Shanghai. 26. From the standpoint of an individual accustomed to the traditional Han Chinese family system, in which the daughter marries out of her natal household into the family of her husband, the conjugal practices of some of the ethnic minority groups— the Naxi, the Yi, and the Mosuo in particular— are scandalously unorthodox. Practices such as the “walking marriage,” in which Mosuo men marry into their bride’s household on a temporary basis, with multiple marriages over a lifetime, are both shocking and titillating to the wider Han public (Walsh 2005). 27. Hotels were among the first businesses to receive foreign investment when China embarked upon market reforms. Between 1979 and 1986, 48 percent of DFI was invested in hotels and tourism (Wei and Liu 2001: 16), reaching 57 percent in 1986 (Pearson 1992: 88). 28. The World Tourism Orga nization (2002: 3) forecasts that China will be the world’s top tourist destination by 2020. 29. When I arrived in Changsha, Hunan, in 1987 to work as an English teacher, I stayed in a state-run guesthouse typical of the Mao era. Guests were not given keys to their rooms. Gaining access to my room required searching out one of the female floor workers, who kept all the keys to the floor on a large key ring (which made her look like a jailer). The floor workers always seemed inconvenienced, if not irritated, by my request for access. When room attendants came to the door to deliver hot water or clean the room, they knocked twice and then immediately opened the door, without concern for what was going on inside, and occasionally caught guests in various states of undress. Workers were gruff, but they were also very confident and proud. 30. These included the Holiday Inn, the Great Wall Sheraton, and the Jianguo. 31. The general manager explained the BT strategy: “We focus on a more niche segment of the market, which is high yield and less price sensitive, whereas the other hotels don’t have the luxury of not needing the low-yield business.” 32. The introduction of customization technology was facilitated by a trend toward consolidation that began in the 1980s. Between 1995 and 1999 nine major brand names were purchased for a total of approximately $38 billion. Brand names such as the RitzCarlton, St. Regis, Sheraton, Intercontinental, Wyndham, and Red Lion were transferred (ILO 2001; Partlow 1993). Today, major players in the industry own multiple brand-name hotels. In the 1990s Galaxy had acquired three new hotel chains and maintained multiple brand names. These chains set the standard for ser vice internationally and therefore become models for other international and domestic hotels. 33. Male workers at both hotels wore formal uniforms that clearly marked their department and status. Doormen and porters wore pillbox hats and formal jackets with

Notes to Chapters 1 and 2


large gold buttons. Security personnel wore discreet gray suits. Busboys wore simple uniforms that matched the outfits worn by food servers and hostesses in their departments.

Chapter 2 Portions of this chapter have been adapted from “Virtual Personalism in Beijing: Learning Deference and Femininity in a Global Luxury Hotel,” pp. 101–123 in Working in China: Ethnographies of Labor and Workplace Transformation, edited by Ching Kwan Lee (New York: Routledge, 2006). 1. I later discovered that there is a version of this ad that features a woman, but this ad copy was never displayed at the Beijing Transluxury. 2. This knowledge of identity and preferences itself becomes a commodity to be consumed by customers. 3. At some hotels, however, computer records can be used to reinforce personal relationships between customers and workers. See Sherman (2007). 4. There is evidence that many workplaces with access to resources continue to offer workers some of the welfare and community elements of the Mao era in various forms (Francis 1996). 5. One interesting dimension of female workers’ identities that is, at least in part, cultivated by their experiences at the hotel, including having ready access to birth control, is the relative degree of comfort staff seem to develop with their sexuality. Ironically, the family-planning program creates a relatively permissive sexual environment, and it is not unusual for female staff to be sexually active with steady boyfriends from among the male staff members. A personnel department secretary felt compelled to explain to me, “If I wanted to I could live with a boyfriend and no one here would care. In the past such behavior was completely banned.” She enthusiastically dragged me to the personnel department vice manager, repeating her point and ending, “Isn’t that right, sister Xiangyue?” (Workers were in the habit of calling managers “sister.”) The manager, laughing at the nature of the conversation, agreed. The contrast with the puritanical Mao-era workplace control of sexuality is striking (see Evans 1997; Walder 1986). Workers readily identified their boyfriends and occasionally talked of sleepovers, and some even contemplated premarital cohabitation at some point. Th is relatively open sexuality contrasts dramatically with the virtuous feminine disposition developed among workers at the Kunming Transluxury Hotel. 6. In Japa nese firms as well, a workplace gift economy has been found to be central to social relations and to contribute to managerial legitimacy (Ogasawara 1998). But the gifts tend to flow from the workers to the managers, giving workers the opportunity to symbolically reward good managers. In the case of the BT, gifts are given by managers and sustain a sense that they genuinely care about workers. 7. Male employees are required to be at least five feet, five inches tall. Height is a proxy for health and class.


Notes to Chapters 2 and 3

8. Feeling discomfort with this task, I gave each candidate a high appearance rating. 9. I had two relevant experiences, the first in Changsha, Hunan, in 1987. I attempted to purchase a shirt from a small, state-run department store, but the clerk insisted it was too small for me and refused to allow me to purchase it. On another occasion, in Beijing in 1989, when I attempted to purchase a train ticket to Harbin to attend the ice festival, I was upbraided by the ticket seller, who denounced me on the public address system for asking too many questions about the train schedule. 10. This explicitly other-oriented sense of self that promotes modesty rather than self-promotion is also characteristic of Japa nese social norms. See Bachnik (1994). 11. A psychologist, Abraham Maslow described human motivation by reference to a hierarchy of needs. According to Maslow (1943), more basic social and material needs lower in the hierarchy must be satisfied in order to meet higher-ranking “growth” needs, which lead to the realization of human potential and self-fulfillment. 12. Existing research indicates that interactive labor is undervalued and invisible within most evaluation processes (Steinberg 1999). 13. The literal translation of xiaojie is “little elder sister.” 14. The smallest denomination of Chinese currency, one fen, is 1/100th of a yuan.

Chapter 3 Portions of this chapter were adapted from “The Dignity of Working Women: Virtuous Professionalism and the Labor Politics of Localization in China’s City of Eternal Spring,” American Behavioral Scientist 52: 356–376. 1. Schein (1994) points out that white women have long represented consumerism and sexuality in China. 2. This is a common strategy among luxury hotels in many locales (Timo and Davidson 2005). 3. A hotel manager in another Yunnan city told a researcher that some officials ask prostitutes for receipts to submit for reimbursement as part of their business expenses (Chao 2003). 4. Workers pay 34 yuan (about US$4.50) a month for medical and social security insurance. This amounts to almost 5 percent of the starting salary. 5. BT management recruited workers through vocational schools and want ads in local papers. 6. Before the KT opened its doors to the public, approximately fifteen staff members were sent to Xi’an for training. Most of the Xi’an Transluxury staff had never traveled to Yunnan and, apparently influenced by much of the commercial representation of Yunnan as an exotic tourist paradise, frequently asked the new KT staff if they rode elephants to work and raised peacocks at home. 7. Escorts also worked in the hotel’s sauna.

Notes to Chapters 3 and 4


8. It is commonly held that the Japanese term “mamasan” was imported by Taiwanese businessmen. The mamasan, who are paid a fee of 30 yuan (US$3.75) by each working escort, report making between 4,000 yuan and 6,000 yuan (US$500–750) a month. Qing Dan Dan, one of the mamasans, described herself as a “nightcat.” Her work usually started between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. and ended around 5:00 a.m. 9. If arrested, the sex workers usually spent four or five days in jail and paid a bail of 2,000 yuan (approximately US$250). 10. The remaining escorts returned to the waiting room. The escorts who were chosen to accompany customers would often excuse themselves from the karaoke room to go to the restroom and hang out in the hallways chatting with their friends. The mamasan spent the better part of their evenings barking at escorts to return to their posts. Customers incessantly complained that their escort was not drinking enough or kept leaving the karaoke room and frequently demanded replacements. 11. This tactic is most readily available to staff members selling items such as food and cocktails. Room cleaners and room ser vice attendants have fewer opportunities to use suggestive sales as a shield. 12. For women in particular, developing multiple competencies is also a strategy for surviving the labor market, which presents them with few opportunities as they age. Maili, a cashier, voiced such a concern: “Th is is not a job that you can work at until you are forty. The hotel wouldn’t want me. . . . In the hotel business, who wants to see an old woman running around all day? They want to see young, vibrant faces. So I want to learn as much as possible. The society won’t starve a person with real abilities.”

Chapter 4 1. Municipal governments also subvert trust between migrants and urbanites. Urban governments repeatedly force the relocation of local food markets where migrants sell their produce, undermining opportunities for durable relationships between vendors and urban buyers; urbanites often bring their own scales to food markets run by rural vendors (Veeck and Veeck 2000). City inspection squads (shi rong jiancha dui) carry a mandate to regulate migrants’ street activities. In 1999, when I arrived in Kunming to begin my research, migrants were banished from selling goods and ser vices on city streets. 2. By 1988 the urban Gini coefficient grew to .227, and by 2002 it grew to .345 (Davis and Wang 2009). 3. Of course, these attitudes are not exclusive to Chinese urbanites; they are exhibited by urbanites toward rural migrants the world over and ultimately supply easy justification for migrants’ placement in low-wage, low-skill jobs. 4. This was particularly severe in 2007, when an unexpected storm in the southeast prevented migrants from returning home. These images are broadcast regularly, along with depictions of the scores of migrants living in train stations as they await jobs and living arrangements in cities.


Notes to Chapter 4

5. In 1996 the national minister of public health claimed, “The 80–120 million people in the ‘floating population’ which moves throughout the country in search of work carry the HIV virus into China’s population centers” (Wu and Zhou 1996). 6. The policy specified tax schedules and detailed regulations, defining individual businesses as small-scale handicrafts, retailing, food ser vices, social ser vices, repair, transportation, and housing maintenance. 7. Owners were even occasionally depicted as potential saboteurs of socialism. In particular the 1983–1984 campaign against spiritual pollution targeted entertainment venues such as bars, discos, and tea houses for political attacks (S. Young 1995). 8. These fees are an important source of revenue for urban state bureaus (Solinger 1999a). 9. I personally witnessed the rougher side of migrants’ encounters with authorities. One day, as I chatted with migrants who gathered informally on a street corner near the center of Kunming to wait for employers to solicit them for work, a police officer approached and thwacked the men and women with his truncheon until they dispersed. I was told by a couple of migrants that this street-corner labor market was a risky way to find employment, especially for women; employers may misrepresent their businesses and force women into sex work. 10. This is accomplished by forcing children to inherit the residence of the mother. Since most marriages in China are hypergamous, and urban female marriages to rural men rare, this policy in effect creates enormous disincentives for urban men to marry rural women. 11. The residence permit system forces migrants to maintain ties to their rural homes, relegating the costs of reproduction, child rearing, and elder care to the village. Burawoy (1976: 1060) makes a similar argument in the case of South African apartheid laws: “The enforcement of pass laws externalizes the supplies of unemployed labor and the processes of labor-force renewal to areas where those not gainfully employed are legally permitted to reside.” 12. One restaurant in Beijing where I interviewed workers was owned by the Women’s Federation, a state bureaucracy established during the Mao era to implement party policies concerning women. Another in Kunming was owned by a state pharmaceutical company and operated by a former production manager. 13. Where uniforms are worn, women are expected to offer deposits for them as well. If the uniforms are damaged, the deposit is forfeited. 14. Occasionally they post labor recruitment announcements in storefronts. A recruitment poster that hung in the window of a Kunming restaurant read, “Waitress wanted. Must be 17–26 years old, at least 5' 2" tall and willing to work bitterly.” 15. On one small commercial street in Kunming, four small businesses— a salon, a café, and two restaurants—recruited workers from a single village near the remote and impoverished Zhaotong. The first worker was a male cook in the Spring Lotus kitchen,

Notes to Chapter 4


who was joined by his female cousin, the 16-year-old Fanfan. He found her work in the neighboring café. Eventually additional villagers, relatives, and neighbors were recruited for work in the other outlets. Th is was one of the few instances of chain migration that I discovered, and these workers were less socially isolated than the others I interviewed. 16. Furthermore, the quality of rural schools, which must run on shoestring budgets, cannot begin to compare to that of urban education (Hanumm et al. 2008). 17. Zhanglei’s salary was 300 yuan (about US$40) per month. 18. Some of these businesses are mere facades for the sex industry, others alternate between offering legitimate ser vices and sexual ser vices, and still others are entirely legal business operations. In many ser vice contexts, especially hair salons, karaoke bars, and guesthouses, migrant women work as escorts, offering sexual ser vices. Attendants in hair salons in Thailand also sometimes offer sexual ser vices, and the practice of coupling sex and hair styling for men may have originated there. Hair washing in particular involves what can be considered intimate touching of the head, with the hair washer’s head and face close to that of the customer’s. In China, Taiwan, and Thailand, hair stylists also frequently offer neck and back massages after the hair washing. The offer of sexual ser vices may have evolved from the physical intimacy required by this type of professional treatment of the body. 19. A handful of studies are suggestive of the ways that consumption enters into labor relationships. For example, Ogasawara (1998) finds that the circulation of gifts by Japa nese office ladies among male managers and executives helps to expand female workers’ otherwise narrow sphere of power, as gifts become an informal symbol of managerial popularity. In a very different labor setting, assembly factories, sexual hierarchies form as women workers dress up to compete for sexual attention from male managers. Sexual competition threads into control processes (Salzinger 2003; Yelvington 1995). Women workers’ consumption of adornments can be viewed as a strategy for attracting positive male attention on the shop floor. Such consumption may also be a response to shop floor managerial accusations that women are inadequately feminine, manly, or masculinized (Ngai 2005). In yet another example of consumption in the workplace, women data-processing workers in the Ca ribbean, newly recruited from local agricultural production, embrace sartorial symbols of feminine professionalism related to their new jobs. Despite the lower wages compared to labor in the agricultural sector, these women eagerly take these jobs and welcome the opportunity to embody middle-class professionalism, wearing dresses, suits, and high heels to work (Freeman 2000). 20. In most of my interviews with migrant women, they would typically gasp, “Your Mandarin is so standard/normal [biaozhun].” This was usually followed by a series of inquiries about how and where I learned the language. Inevitably women would make unfavorable comparisons with their own language ability.


Notes to Chapters 4 and 5

21. This does not mean that women do not experience plea sure in wearing makeup and other adornments. Indeed, plea sure and invention are components of modern forms of discipline that cultivate competencies, rather than pose coercive boundaries on behavior (Foucault 1979). Most migrant ser vice workers are not coerced into adopting new practices of self-presentation; they often do so willingly and experience satisfaction in new forms of cosmopolitan consumption. 22. This was also the case in U.S. urban centers in the 1920s, when skin whiteners were popular (Peiss 1998). 23. “Where do you shower?” I asked Hongmei, the café waitress in Kunming, after the café closed. “I go to the public showers once a week,” she told me. Most migrant women used the public showers, where they bathe in gigantic, steamy rooms, often with upward of fifty other women. The cost was 25 fen (about 4 cents) for every minute of hot water used. As inexpensive as it seems, it was another of the countless expenditures that cut into migrant workers’ paltry wages. 24. Two relevant examples are Zhang Yimou’s movies Yige dou bu neng xiao (Not less than one) and Qu Jiu da guan si (Qu Jiu), in which the main characters are poorly educated migrants barely able to negotiate the urban setting. 25. The course was sponsored by the Women’s Federation, a state agency charged with implementing governmental policies relating to women. 26. In a study of eating disorders and weight management, Susan Bordo (1993) argues that women exert control over their bodies as a means of exercising influence over the world around them.

Chapter 5 1. Comparative research, however, is abundant in labor studies. There is an evolving body of multisited, comparative research on labor, a growing portion of which explicitly considers the context of globalization (Burawoy et al. 2000; Freeman 2000; Lee 1998; Parreñas 2001; Salzinger 2003). Extant research on the sociology of work offers site-specific case studies (Adler and Adler 2004; Burawoy 1979; Fernandez-Kelly 1983; Hanser 2008; Kondo 1990; Ong 1987; D. Wolf 1992), cross-national comparisons (Lee 1998; Sil 2002), comparisons of workplaces in the same industry and sector (Freeman 2000; Pierce 1995; Salzinger 2003), and cross-industry comparisons (Hochschild 1983; Leidner 1993; Milkman 1987; V. Smith 2001). 2. She explained that, for example, masculinity, property ownership, and whiteness were prerequisites for plantation proprietorship. White females could not own property but were pivotal to the plantation order in their capacity as wives of proprietors in a system of monogamous reproduction that preserved the racial order. Organizations mobilize, reinforce, and bring new meanings to preexisting inequalities in the process of structuring organizational hierarchies. Organizations can also construct these hierarchies anew.

Notes to Chapter 5 and Afterword


3. Jason Judd, AFL-CIO, personal communication March 2004. In another case, cross-border worker alliances between workers in Sweden and the European Union helped Chicago workers win a contract with a major security firm, Securitas (Quan 2007). Other new forms of association power include efforts to orga nize informal sector workers, such as the Self-Employed Women’s Association in India, which claims 700,000 members (Vosko 2007).

Afterword 1. While I did attempt to gain access to these meetings by simply asking the local party secretary, I was politely turned away. As a foreigner, I was banned from knowledge of any “state secrets” shared with hotel personnel who were active party members.


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Note: Page numbers followed by f or t indicate figures or tables. Acting, emotion work and, 163–166 All-China Federation of Trade Unions, 63, 66, 74–75 American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFLCIO), 162 Aspirational urbanism, of migrant workers, 4, 8, 123–151, 157–158; attitude toward and scapegoating of workers, 126–129, 138–140, 142, 187n1, 188n5; consumption to conceal rural origins, 142–149, 150, 189n19, 190nn21,23; creation and growth of informal sector, 129–130; education and training gaps, 135, 136–138; hours, wages, and living conditions, 132–135; household registration system legacy and burdens on workers, 56–58, 59, 63, 67, 130–132, 135, 137, 149–150, 158, 183nn16–18, 188nn9–11; sexual harassment and, 140–142, 189n18 Associational power, 162 Banet-Weiser, Sarah, 179n17 Beijing: employment in, 47, 50, 182n8; gendered division of labor in, 51, 182n11; generally, 7, 30; service sector in, 58–59, 62–63 Beijing Transluxury (BT) Hotel (pseudonym), 159, 161; employees’ opinions of migrant workers, 126, 128;

gender-stratified workforce, 66, 184n34; strategy of engagement with global capital, 64–65, 184nn31,32. See also Virtual personalism, at Beijing Transluxury Hotel Bian, Yanjie, 55 Biggart, Nicole Woolsey, 21, 177n5 Block, Fred, 177n5 Bodies of workers. See Market-embodied labor Body rules, gender and class and, 13–23, 154–155, 168, 179n17 Bourdieu, Pierre, 11, 20, 21, 25, 178nn12,14 Brechtian performance theory, 164–166 Brinton, Mary, 6, 132 Burawoy, Michael, 29, 129, 181n24, 188n11, 190n1 Butler, Judith, 15–16, 166 Capital, types of, 20. See also Globalization, of service work Chan, Anita, 63, 181n22, 183n19 Chen, Tina Mai, 181n5 Chinese Communist Party (CCP): gender erasure in consumer service sector, 4–5, 37–39, 40f, 41f, 42–43, 181n5, 182n6; growth of informal sector and, 129–130; lodging infrastructure developed, 63; theatrical methods and, 165



Chinese performance tradition, 164, 165 Class: body rules, gender and, 13–23, 154–155, 179n17; consumer markets and, 24–27, 158–161, 169–170; gender, ethnicity and, 158–161; gender, inequality and, 5–11 Collective action possibilities, for workers, 161–163 Collins, Patricia Hill, 159 Confucianism: self in nested relationships, 83; women, work, and codes of conduct, 37–39 Connell, Catherine, 24, 25, 177n4 Connell, R. W., 15, 16, 71, 77, 179n17 Consumer markets: collective action and power to mobilize workers, 161–163; gender, class, ethnicity and, 158–161; race, gender, and class preferences of customers, 24–27, 169–170 Consumer service sector, emergence of, 36–68; Beijing and Kunming compared, 58–63; CCP and gender erasure, 4–5, 37–39, 40f, 41f, 42–43, 181n5, 182n6; hotel industry and, 63–67; increasing employment in and sexualization of, 47, 50–53, 50t, 51t, 182n10; market economy and feminization, 43–44, 45f, 46f; sexuality and feminization, 44, 47, 48f, 49f; socialist legacies, household registration system, 56–58; socialist legacies, work-unit system, 53–56, 182n13. See also Service labor Contexts of reception, for migrant women, 132 Cultural capital, 20 Davis, Deborah, 5, 42, 50, 127, 152, 180n19, 187n2 Ding Ling, 178n11 Distinction, struggles and strategies of, 25–27, 160

Economic capital, 20 Education, gaps in migrant workers’, 135, 136–138 Embeddedness, 10, 155, 169–170, 177n5; market-embodied labor and globalization, 27–30. See also Socialist work legacies Emotional economy, 8 Emotion work, service labor as, 11–14, 177n7; acting and organizationally coordinated interacting, 163–166; economies embedded in body and sense aesthetics, 167–168 Escorts. See Sex work Ethnicity: bodies and, 14; consumer markets and, 158–161; consumption and, 27, 141–142; ethnic identity and workplace hierarchies, 24–25, 108–109; state-orchestrated classifications, 61–62 Experiential inequalities, between workers and customers, 8–11 Face-giving, virtual personalism and, 91, 95–97 Family-planning program: Beijing Transluxury Hotel employees and, 76, 185n5; Kunming Transluxury Hotel employees and, 105 Femininity and feminization of women: aspirational urbanism and, 123–126, 142–149, 150, 189n19, 190nn21,23; bodily transformation and standards of appearance, 85–89; consumer service work and, 17–18; figured through body as subordinate power relations, 16–17, 178n11; market economy and, 43–44, 45f, 46f; service work and, 179n17; sexuality and, 44, 47, 48f, 49f; virtual personalism and individualism, 82–85; virtual personalism and soft skills, 79–82


Floating population. See Migrant workers Foucault, Michel, 21–22, 82 Fuller, Linda, 24 Gender: body rules and, 13–23, 179n17; class inequalities in service work and, 5–11; consumer markets and, 158–161; language regarding migrant workers and, 127–128 Gender erasure, in consumer service sector, 4–5, 37–39, 40f, 41f, 42–43, 181n5, 182n6 Gender roles, Kunming Transluxury Hotel employees and, 118–120 Globalization, of service work: hotel industry and, 152–154; marketembodied labor, 27–30, 181n24; strategy of engagement with global capital, 64–65, 184nn31,32 Gottfried, Heidi, 21, 143, 178n15 Granovetter, Mark, 26 Guang, Lei, 128 Guanxi business culture, 103–104 Habitus, 21 Harvey, David, 29 Henderson, M., 58, 183n20 Hershatter, Gail, 42, 52, 61 HIV/AIDS, 108, 188n5 Hochschild, Arlie Russell, 7, 8, 11–13, 80, 163, 166, 169, 177n7, 178n8 Holiday economics program, 50, 182n9 Honig, Emily, 52, 181n1, 182n6 Hotel industry, generally, 63–67. See also specific hotels Household registration system (hukou): burdens on migrant workers, 130–132, 135, 137, 149–150, 183nn17,18, 188nn9–11; as employment legacy, 56–58, 59, 63, 67, 183n16 Individualism, virtual personalism and, 77–79


Informal sector, characteristics of workers in, 66–67. See also Aspirational urbanism, of migrant workers Interactive inequalities, between workers and customers, 8, 154, 160 “Iron rice bowl,” 36, 75 Janitors for Justice, 163 Job-post inheritance, at Kunming Transluxury Hotel, 106, 109 Kang, Miliann, 13, 25 Kunming: employment in, 47, 50, 182n8; gendered division of labor in, 51, 182n11; generally, 7, 30; service sector and sex work in, 58, 59–63 Kunming Transluxury (KT) Hotel (pseudonym), 159, 161; employees’ opinions of migrant workers, 126; gender-stratified workforce, 66, 184n34; strategy of localization, 65–66. See also Virtuous professionalism, at Kunming Transluxury Hotel Lan, Pei-chia, 22, 143 Language: conveying rules of feeling and, 12; gender and class hierarchy and, 84–85, 127–128; giving face and, 97 Leidner, Robin, 13, 21, 24, 98, 118, 190n1 Lopez, Steven H., 13, 24 Macroregions, 58, 183n21 Managed Heart, The (Hochschild), 7, 11–12, 169 Mao era, 4–5, 6, 32, 43, 44, 74, 76, 82, 85, 89, 121, 152, 179n17, 184n29, 185nn4,5; CCP and norms of femininity, 17–18; commitment to eliminating gender hierarchies, 51–52; economic reforms, 55; household registration system, 34, 56–57, 130–131; images of women service workers, 39, 40f, 41f, 44, 45f, 46f, 47, 48f; legacy of personalism, 79; staff in urban restaurants, 42; state



Mao era (continued ) coordination of production and consumption, 54–55; state racial project, 61; system of guaranteed lifetime employment, 36, 74, 106; Women’s Federation, 188n12; “worker guarantees,” 75. See also Gender erasure, in consumer service sector Mao Zedong, 5, 18 Market economy, feminization in consumer service sector, 43–44, 45f, 46f Market-embodied labor, 9–11, 23, 154–155, 169–170, 177n3; embeddedness, globalization and, 27–30, 152–154. See also Informal sector; Virtual personalism, at Beijing Transluxury Hotel; Virtuous professionalism, at Kunming Transluxury Hotel Marxism, globalization and, 29 Maslow, Abraham, 84–85, 186n11 Material inequalities, between workers and customers, 8 Mei Lanfang, 165 Migrant workers, in urban workforces, 59, 126, 183n24. See also Aspirational urbanism, of migrant workers New Institutionalists, 28–29 Non-Han Chinese women: portrayed as “other,” 61–62; workplace hierarchies at Kunming Transluxury Hotel, 108–109 Ogasawara, Yuko, 189n19 Olympic Games (2008), hostess selection for, 44 Orwell, George, 167 Power, available to workers, 161–163 Prostitution. See Sex work Race. See Ethnicity Raffles Hotel, Cambodia, 162

Residential permit system. See Household registration system (hukou) Roberts, Rosemary, 18–19 Security guards, female, 93 Sense aesthetics, 167–168 Service consciousness, at Kunming Transluxury Hotel, 108–109 Service labor, 1–32; body rules, gender, class and, 13–23, 179n17; CCP and growth of, 4–5; consumer markets and, 24–27; as emotion work, 11–14, 177n7; future research, 170; gender and class inequalities and, 5–11; methodology of study, 6–8, 30–32, 171–174. See also Consumer service sector, emergence of Sex essentialism, discourse of, 51–53 Sexual harassment, of urban migrant workers, 140–142, 189n18 Sex work: in Kunming, 60–62; at Kunming Transluxury Hotel, 101–104, 111–113; at Kunming Transluxury Hotel, employees’ virtuous professionalism and, 117–121 Shaming practices, as power for collective action, 162–163 Sherman, Rachel, 10, 96 Sign-bearing capital, 22, 179n16 Silver, Beverly, 161 Simmel, Georg, 167 Skeggs, Beverly, 19, 22, 179n17 Skinner, G. William, 58, 131, 183n20 Smith, Vicki, 24, 190n1 Social capital, 20 Socialist work legacies: family-planning and job-post inheritance at Kunming Transluxury Hotel, 105–106, 109; virtual personalism and employee benefits and wages, 73–77; workunit system, 53–56, 182n13. See also Household registration system (hukou)


Soft skills, virtual personalism and, 79–82 Solinger, Dorothy J., 4, 10, 43, 55, 56, 57, 58, 188n8 “Spring rice bowl,” 36 Stanislavskian method acting, 163, 164 State-orchestrated ethnic classifications, 61–62 State-owned enterprises: employment legacies and, 53–58; joint-venture lodging complexes, 63–64 Structural power, 161–162 “Surface acting,” 178n8 Swedberg, Richard, 167 Symbolic capital, 20 Symbolic labor, 142–149, 150, 189n19, 190nn21,23 Teahouses, women working in, 37–38 Textile industry, women working in, 37–38 Time-space compression, globalization and, 29 Tourism: sex industry and, 65; in Yunnan Province and Kunming, 60–62 Virtual personalism, at Beijing Transluxury Hotel, 8, 69–99, 155–156; described, 1–3, 69–73; femininity, bodily training, and standards of appearance, 85–89; gendered standards in evaluation processes, 89–91; socialist legacies embedded in labor practices, 73–77, 156; staffmanagement relations, 77–79; staff-management relations, femininity and soft skills, 79–82; staff-management relations, individuality, 77–79, 82–85; workers’ solutions to service dilemmas and distance from customers, 91–97 Virtuous professionalism, at Kunming Transluxury Hotel, 3, 8, 100–122,


156–157; employees’ professionalism used to de-emphasize sexuality, 117–121; escorts and sex work and, 113–117; ethnic identity and workplace hierarchies, 108–109; knowledge of products emphasized over knowledge of guests, 111–113; local management and catering to new business culture, 101–104; local versus Western management issues, 106–107; managers’ punitive measures to enforce good service, 109–111; socialist legacies embedded in labor practices, 105–106, 157 Walder, Andrew, 10, 39, 54, 75, 182n14, 185n5 Wang Feng, 5, 42, 56, 57, 127, 152, 180n19, 187n2 West, Candace, 15, 147, 166 Williams, Christine L., 24, 25, 177n4, 180n18 “Working little sisters” (dagongmei), 127, 147 Work-unit system, as employment legacy, 53–56, 182n13 Xi’an Transluxury Hotel (pseudonym), Kunming Transluxury Hotel management and, 65, 102, 103, 107, 109, 156, 186n6 Xiaojie (miss), uses of, 52–53, 94–95, 140–141, 182n12 Yan, Yunxiang, 42 Yang, Mayfair, 103–104 Yuan, J. H., 58, 183n20 Yunnan Province, tourism in, 60–61. See also Kunming Zhu Rongji, 43 Zimmerman, Don H., 15, 147, 166