Pun, Ngai 1970-
Pun, Ngai 1970-
Born October 3, 1970, in Shantao, Guangdong, China; daughter of Guhong Pun and Waileung Wong. Education: Chinese University of Hong Kong, B.S., 1991; University of Hong Kong, M.Phil., 1994; University of London, Ph.D., 1998. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, music, films, meditation.
Writer, anthropologist, educator. City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China, lecturer, 1998-99; University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, research assistant professor, 1999-2001; Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong, assistant professor, 2001—. Chinese Working Women Network, founder and chair; Center Cultural Studies, Hong Kong, member of membership committee, 2002.
Hong Kong Anthropological Association, Association for Advancement of Feminism.
Fellow, Commonwealth Fellowships Schema, 1994-97; Wright Mills Award, Society for the Study of Social Problems, 2005, for Made in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace.
(Editor, with Agnes S. Ku) Remaking Citizenship in Hong Kong: Community, Nation, and the Global City, foreword by Bryan S. Turner, Routledge (New York, NY), 2004.
Made in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2005.
Contributor of articles to scholarly journals.
Chinese educator and anthropologist Ngai Pun specializes in globalization and its human costs on Chinese labor, as well as in cultural and gender politics. All of these research interests are combined in her award-winning 2005 nonfiction study Made in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace. Bradley Winterton, writing in the Taipei Times, noted that Pun's book "exposes life as a cog in China's production line." Pun's research for the book was not only scholarly; she herself worked for eight months in a factory manufacturing electronic goods. The resulting work is, according to Winterton, "a vivid depiction of the hardships on the frontline of China's manufacturing juggernaut." Pun thus provides a book that is, on the one hand, a personal account of the hard life led by factory workers—many of them young girls brought in from the country—replete with these workers' personal stories; on the other hand, the work is also an academic examination of the harsh working conditions in China's new economy. The young working women, termed dagongmei, make up a permanent transient working class in China because of government restrictions that forbid persons born in rural areas to leave their village permanently. Thus, for four or five years, these young women settle in industrial zones to work grueling schedules before returning to their villages and marrying. Pun worked eleven- and twelve-hour days, six days a week on such a production line that produced goods for a Hong Kong company. Her research was carried out in southern China's Guangdong province, in the special economic zone of Shenzhen, where foreign companies are allowed to own factories. The pay was minimal, barely enough to live on, and Pun slept in the worker dormitories along with the other working girls. Winterton found that Made in China, despite being "frequently academic in tone and perspective, nevertheless gives a vivid idea of life in the factory." Pun posits the thesis that these young women, having undergone the vicissitudes of globalization firsthand, will constitute the members of a new and quiet social revolution that may in time change such working conditions.
Pun divides her book into seven chapters. The first chapter examines how the new, postcommunist working class originated under the specific conditions of industrial zones such as Shenzhen. The second chapter looks at the role of the young village women in this labor force and their struggles between the draw of work and family. The third chapter focuses on the manner in which the dagongmei are kept in line by global capital interests, noting that the Chinese state does not intervene in the working conditions in such industrial zones. Chapters four and five look at the formation of identity among the dagongmei and the roles of sex and gender in the workplace, respectively. The sixth chapter discusses the manner of resistance the dagongmei present to the global patriarchy controlling them, and the final chapter deals with the idea of a new social revolution that may be inspired by such experiences among working girls.
Critical reception to Pun's work was generally positive. Winterton found it a "remarkable book." Writing in the China Review International, Karen Garner termed Made in China a "multilayered ethnography." Garner further noted that Pun's analysis, which is indebted to the French philosopher Michel Foucault's "theoretical insights on sexuality, disciplining the body, technologizing the self, and dream readings, critiques the oppressive matrix of power constructed by the socialist state, global capitalism, and patriarchy." Reviewing the same work in Pacific Affairs, Vera Leigh Fennell described the work as an "ethnographic analysis of the construction of modern female working-class identity in post-socialist China."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
China Quarterly, December, 2005, Mette Thuno, review of Made in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace, p. 976.
China Review International, fall, 2005, Karen Garner, review of Made in China, p. 528.
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, December, 2007, Massimiliano Mollona, review of Made in China, p. 1025.
Pacific Affairs, spring, 2006, Vera Leigh Fennell, review of Made in China, p. 109.
Social Anthropology, June, 2006, Jenny Chio, review of Made in China, p. 289.
Duke University Press Web site,http://www.dukeupress.edu/ (March 22, 2008), "Pun Ngai."
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Web site,http://sosc.ust.hk/ (March 22, 2008), "Ngai Pun."
Taipei Times Online,http://www.taipeitimes.com/ (April 24, 2005), Bradley Winterton, review of Made in China.