Another China – other inequalities

By Mai Corlin, Ph.D. student, Aarhus University

Gender inequality is not simply the unfair treatment of men and women. It is a complex issue tied to a whole range of disparities in society at large, argues Professor Min Dongchao, who has just been awarded a Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship and will be a guest professor at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies for the next few years. Her object of study is the travels of gender theory between the Nordic countries and China.



Professor Min Dongchao

Just another day at the factory

Like many other researchers and academics of her generation, Professor Min Dongchao was young during the turbulent years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Most of China’s schools and universities were closed down during that period, and the youth were sent to the countryside or to factories to learn from the working class. Professor Min spent the Cultural Revolution as a worker at the Tianjin Machinery and Tool Factory, beginning her factory career at the age of 15 in 1969 and staying there for eight years.

“During the Cultural Revolution, society was turned upside down. We grew up in a transformed environment with no language to talk about gender or differences between the sexes, because there wasn’t supposed to be any difference. Everybody wore the same kinds of clothes, did the same job, got the same pay, and so forth. There was basically no sexual division in society — at least not on the surface,” says Professor Min Dongchao.


The open door

It was only after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 that schools and universities reopened, and it became possible for at least some of the so-called “sent down youth” to return to the education system. Once again, society was turned upside down: Foreign cultures and influences entered the country, spurring an irreversible development of Chinese society.

“Suddenly we could watch films and television from abroad, films that often demonstrated a clear gender differentiation, where men looked like men and women looked like women. So we wanted to look good, and we wanted to look different from men. Women started wearing makeup, and clothes in general became more colorful. Suddenly, a more diverse expression and mode of behavior were allowed again,” explains Min.

But there was another side to the new developments. It soon became more difficult for women to find employment, and they were paid gradually less, as men were generally favored in job situations. The factories started to lay off workers, and women were often the first to go. Other problems such as prostitution and men taking second wives also resurfaced and, according to Professor Min, this laid some of the foundation for why women and gender studies started taking off in China in the 1980s.

Professor Min returned to China in 2004 after almost ten years in the UK, and discovered a country in rapid transition. The new generations of young girls had reversed the Cultural Revolutionary tradition of going to the countryside. Instead, they were heading to coastal cities to work in factories — a mixed experience, to most. On the one hand, they experience the freedom of getting their own job, earning their own money, and freeing themselves from the pressure of country life. On the other, they work under exploitative conditions, are paid very little, and without any unions to protect them.


The introduction of gender

United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women Opens in Beijing, September 1995. Photo: UN Photo/Milton Grant
United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women Opens in Beijing, September 1995. Photo: UN Photo/Milton Grant

United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women Opens in Beijing, September 1995. Photo: UN Photo/Milton Grant

Gender as a concept was introduced into China in connection with preparations for the Fourth UN World Conference on Women, which was held in Beijing in 1995. There was growing awareness of increasingly visible gender inequality, and a new conceptual language to discuss these issues was made available to concerned academics and activists.

One of the gender-related issues under discussion in recent years is quotas. During the Mao era, the sex ratio was 50-50 in most party and government organs. In 2008, the government introduced gender quotas stipulating that 22% of the congress should be female, and last year, in collaboration with the All-China Women’s Federation, it was decided that there should be at least one woman on village committees. Professor Min, however, argues that the solution to gender inequality issues doesn’t lie only in quotas or the recognition of gender issues. Rather, it is a matter of general inequality in society at large:

“Gender equality should be addressed as a very important issue, and by this I don’t just mean gender difference — it is not a matter of achieving complete similarity between the sexes. Gender inequality has to do with general inequality in the society at large, the gap between rich and poor, inequality between the regions, between city and countryside. There are males and females of all classes and walks of life, so there are very rich females and very poor males. Gender inequality exists and can only be understood in the context of all levels of society, and within all classes. The inequality gap in general is growing bigger, which in turn affects gender inequality. When you conduct your research you may forget this, you may think in different categories, but you always have to see the society as a whole. The conditions for life in China are so dependent on geography and class. In many rural places, there are no proper schools, and children run around hungry. And then you have Shanghai with its multimillionaires — even billionaires. If you only look at one class or one geographic location, you get a skewed picture of what is actually going on in China,” Professor Min emphasizes.


The local is not subordinate to the global

Many academics agree that you cannot separate globalization and the local; they are two sides of the same coin. In other words, you cannot take the local out of the global. Globalization happens in the local. Professor Min argues that this is the case even for places with myriad global connections, like London: Even though all the money flowing through the financial center influences London from abroad, there is still a feature of something “local.” Understanding the global in relation to the local is a way to give prominence to people, because they are the ones who experience the changes on an everyday basis, and they are the ones who actually “practice” globalization.

As Professor Min notes, “We often see the railway as a symbol of globalization, because it links places together, but what we tend to forget is that there are places and people in between the stations. As with railways, there are different routes for gender studies in China. Some people go to Beijing and Shanghai and read Judith Butler, and then others go to the poor areas, like Yunnan. In Yunnan they have gradually changed the gender discourse and related practice, and as a result, the Yunnan Province Women’s Federation has managed to obtain more funding for larger projects than they have in places where they have not yet incorporated the new discourse.”

“Yunnan Province Women’s federation is a good example of how the global and the local are linked, of how things change in a local environment,” she argues.


The next generation

female students protest

Female students protest gender quotas at Guangzhou University. Photo from

The new generation of women has begun to stir up radical performances and protests in the big cities. One example is a domestic violence protest last year in which young women painted their faces so it looked like they’d been beaten, and posted pictures of it on the Internet. Another incident was the Occupy Toilet Movement, where women occupied men’s rooms to protest the lack of women’s toilets in most public places.

“They might have gotten the idea from Taiwan or Hong Kong,” Professor Min adds.

Last year, some universities refused female applicants even though they had the same scores as their male counterparts. The Ministry proclaimed that for the sake of the country the universities needed more men, not girls. The women reacted by staging a happening where they shaved their heads and stood out on the street in defiance.

“Because of the Internet, this protest became a big deal. I think it’s good that young women have started to react to society’s gender inequalities; it is a good sign. I think it’s important that they protest, that they fight for something. My generation is about to retire, and we need the younger generation to take over and do the job. I hope that is what we’re seeing now,” Professor Min concludes.


Professor Min Dongchao, director of the Centre for Gender and Culture Studies at Shanghai University, has received the Marie Curie Actions International Incoming Fellowship and will be a guest professor at Nordic Institute of Asian Studies (NIAS) at the University of Copenhagen from April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2015.

Professor Min’s project is titled “Cross-Cultural Encounters — The Travels of Gender Theory and Practice to China and the Nordic Countries” and is concerned with the cross-cultural translation of knowledge and practices that may or may not take place when different cultures interact, and the resulting production of new knowledge. Taking the travelling routes of gender theory and practices to, and also between, China and the Nordic countries as the empirical object of study, the project will focus on the crucial questions of why and how knowledge travels or fails to travel.


This interview with Professor Min Dongchao can also be found on – Blogging on Denmark and China.

A rainbow anniversary: On the paradoxes of lesbian and gay life in contemporary China

Elisabeth L. Engebretsen


Watching television images of the Chinese 60th anniversary celebrations on 1 October, I was struck by the prominently displayed rainbow color people-formations on Chang’an Avenue – the very heart of Chinese political governance. The intended, official meanings of the rainbow theme undoubtedly were those of common themes related to the Community Party’s rhetoric of nationalist hope, purity, and yearning for progress and development; and thereby providing a visual support for slogans such as “Socialism is good”, “Develop Science and Technology,” and so on. But, the rainbow flag is moreover known worldwide to symbolize lesbian and gay (‘lgbtq’ henceforth)[i] pride. Over the course of the last decades, concurring with increased economic and cultural globalization, the rainbow flag has taken on a somewhat globally recognized symbolic and political meaning for lbgtq people and communities in numerous non-Western locations, where homosexuality tends to remain at least sensitive and taboo, if not illegal.

This is also the case in mainland China. Yet, the current status and situation of lgbtq communities there are far from a clear-cut situation of repression and exclusion, as many would readily believe based on the autocratic political regime and innumerable media reports of (usually ethnic) minority repression and surveillance. Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1997, and delisted as a mental disorder in 2001. Still, lgbtq people have no legal protection, suffer homophobia by employers and family, and activists experience periodically intense persecution and surveillance in accordance with macro-level political priorities to ensure ‘harmony’ and ‘stability’ at crucial times – such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the recent Uighur and Tibetan unrest, and the current 60th Anniversary celebrations this month. Based on little independent, unbiased research of homosexuality as a social (not medical) phenomenon, titillating, sensationalist media reporting, and popular yet traditional folk ideologies, homosexuality is invariably considered immoral, an illness a par with cancer, synonymous with AIDS, abnormal, and un-Chinese.

Due to this situation, few lgbtq Chinese ‘come out’ (i.e. explicitly declare sexual identity) or live openly in same-sex relationships. Most seek a tacit, complicit strategy of, on the one hand, adhering to normative expectation at ‘face’ value, whilst engaging in relationships and communities of their preference in a kind of un-declared, semi-public/private personal life on the other. However, this pervasive difficulty has not prevented a vocal and diverse lgbtq community to emerge; in fact, it has probably enabled and, certainly, fuelled it. Starting in the mid-1990s, social and activist networks have developed in several large cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Dalian, and Kunming. The introduction of and popular access to the Internet and personal cell phones contribute enormously to the general establishment of a semi-private, public sphere in Chinese society, with the potential for alternative expressions and life styles. Combined with the relative decrease in governmental direct control of everyday life, for lgbtq people this change has meant the ability to establish longer-term community projects to raise consciousness,  produce validating and self-affirming positive knowledge such as documentary films, magazines, and oral histories. Outside NGOs, especially from Taiwan and Hong Kong – two culturally and linguistically Chinese societies – provide long-standing experience in aspects of lgbtq activist concerns.

This seeming paradox of official constraints and alternative possibilities are increasingly being played out in the Chinese media public, thanks to bolder, more pronounced initiatives taken by some lgbtq networks. To cite an example, on Valentine’s Day these three last years, Beijing lgbtq activists and supporters have organized same-sex marriage campaigns in downtown Beijing to draw the public’s attention to same-sex love and identity in general, and the inequality in current marriage legislation in particular.[ii] This year, the campaign took place at the opposite end of Tiananmen, where the rainbow colors where displayed for rather different reasons on October 1. In the popular tourist and shopping area of Qianmen, two gay men and two lesbian women posed as brides-to-be and grooms-to-be, dressed in white gowns and black tuxedos, respectively. Local and foreign media covered this unusual and rather bold event, and activists documented the proceedings with film cameras.[iii] Other activists distributed red flowers to passer-bys, to which they attached leaflets advocating equal rights to marry for all, and noting that lgbtq people are “just like regular folks.” One long-time lesbian activist in Beijing noted in conversation with me this summer that the marriage focus should not be read the same way that gay marriage campaigning in Western societies are. Whilst gay marriage in the West has turned into the seminal yardstick for determining lgbtq equality and a society’s progressive attitude to sexuality, same-sex marriage works politically quite differently in the Chinese context, more like a eye-catching means to a more basic end already achieved, more or less, in North-Western Europe. In China, marriage is an institution everybody knows and deals with, due to the consistent cultural imperative to marry. It is therefore used symbolically by lgbtq activists to advocate not simply and primarily equality, but more importantly, advocate the basic shared humanity of Chinese lgbtqs with the general, heterosexual population, in wanting romantic love, relationships ‘till death do us apart’, and ‘simply’, stable, normal lives.

The paradox remains that the popular media and the blogosphere allow for increasing representations of ‘gay’ issues as basically about lifestyle, fuelled by three decades of open and reform policy’s acceptance of consumerism and material wealth as primary indexer of the ‘good life’. A lifestyle focus, in turn, ensures a categorical divorce from the sensitive political domain; thus, any activist efforts that remotely resemble political rhetoric or public unrest carry risk for authorities’ surveillance and closure, and worse. This summer, a local tongzhi centre in Beijing was shut down, any lgbtq event will still be visited by police and public security officials demanding paper-work, identity cards, etc. Local activists exhibit remarkable humor, stoicism, and creativity in their dealings with these officials. In a society where alternative approaches to sensitive topics and ways of life are deemed to be political destabilizers and potential threats to Party governance, it is likely that these versatile, brave activist strategies must proceed for quite some time in years to come.



The author:

Dr Elisabeth L. Engebretsen is a social anthropologist specializing on gender, sexuality, subjectivity and identity, and social change in PR China. She is currently Faculty Lecturer at McGill University’s Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. More information at:






[i] I use ‘lgbtq’ to mean lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, and queer, in an attempt to recognize the difficulty, and impossibility, of fixing sexual identity categories. Note however, that commonly used categories in Mainland China include lala (a collective identity category used by women who love women), T/P (tomboy/po “wife”, a Chinese version of masculine butch and feminine femme roles), tongzhi (meaning “comrade”, gender neutral), tongxinglianzhe (“ho
mosexual”, a direct Chinese translation of the English term). In addition, there are numerous slang words and terminologies.

[ii] Chinese law does not recognize same-gender marriage as valid, but neither does it specify the opposite-gender implication of current legal code.

[iii] A documentary film has since been made by the China Queer Independent Film Group, titled “New Beijing, New Marriage” (Xin Beijing, Xin Hunyin) (2009, 20 mins., Fan Popo, David Zheng). It specifically documents this event.


Sino-Icelandic relations in times of intense globalization – Mutual respect and benefits for all? By Lilja Hjartardóttir

Sino-Icelandic relations are a recent and undertheorised phenomenon compared with Sino-Nordic relations that were already established early in the 20th century. Once business relations took hold in the 1990s Icelanders moved quickly into the immense Chinese market. While trade relations have maintained their priority status in the execution of foreign policy, participation in the international human rights regime has taken a backseat. Icelandic authorities have pledged to promote and protect human rights and gender equality in their foreign policy and foreign trade policy. In spite of public support to find and develop new markets, neither private nor public enterprises are part of the policy to enforce international human rights, including workers and women’s rights, and they are not legally bound by international human rights treaties.

Iceland has been an active, albeit small, member of the international trade regime. From the early 1990s ministers of governments, members of the Reykjavik city council, business leaders and business enthusiasts all travelled to China to experience a new and promising market. As a new member of the European Economic Community in 1994, Iceland worked on deregulation and privatization of its economy with the now well known catastrophic consequences. New legislation and regulations were meant to ensure that the business environment would enhance foreign investment in Iceland (Ásgrímsson 1998, 2005).The Icelandic President, who has participated in promoting and supporting the Icelandic business community abroad, led a large delegation to China in 2005. The trip was successful in preparing for many new business contracts between the two states.  During the same period Chinese dignitaries visited Iceland. In spite of the great contrast between the two states, current relations have been grounded in mutual trust and admiration for the economic advancement reached by both countries before the economic crisis. China appreciates that Iceland was among the first West European countries that recognized China’s status as a complete market economy while neither the United States nor the European Union has done so.  Iceland was moreover the first European country to work with China on the feasibility of establishing a free trade zone.  Iceland and China are making good progress on their comprehensive bilateral free trade agreement.

Forces of globalization shape our daily lives and the functions of the international trade system benefits us even while betraying us. There is no lack of rules on behaviour and guidelines on how international companies should respect workers rights and be responsible actors in the international market. The rules are, however, voluntary and a system of implementation and enforcement has yet to be developed. Examples are the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Corporations and the Global Compact initiative by the United Nations. What is needed is an international legal framework to deal with a new reality where over 2400 bilateral free trade agreements exist and the transfer of trade and finance is almost unlimited (Ruggie 2008).

Globalized forces affect the life of women and men at global and local levels. A close look at local communities, e.g. coastal villages around Iceland, shows that their existence has been threatened by lack of job opportunities. Since the early 1990s jobs in fish processing have declined by more than 60% (Sigurmundsson 2007). The reasons are not simple but the privatization of the fish industry in the early 1980s and the relatively high price of fresh fish do matter. In addition to the fact that in spite of low salaries in fish processing the workers cannot compete with cheap labour or labour made cheap elsewhere (Enloe 1990, Pun 1999). While China is by far the greatest fishing nation and a competitor on the market, Iceland is on the list of the  world’s 15 main fishing countries. More than being the land of ice and fire, Iceland is the land of fish and fisheries.

Gender division of power, resources and labour

Women have protested the ancient divide between the powerful public sphere of active men, the political citizens, where resources are distributed and decisions made, and the powerless private sphere of excluded women. This tradition in liberal Western democracies has proven a major hindrance for women. It transferred into the dominance of international institutions in the 20th century, inter alia, the international finance and trade institutions (Pateman 1989, Tickner 2001). The gender division of power, resources and labour is clear in the Icelandic fish industry (Karlsdóttir 2006, Skaptadóttir 2000). The political decision to privatize the fish industry in Iceland was accepted in the early 1980s when men dominated national and local politics. The control of marine resources and the majority of business enterprises continue in the hands of men. In addition, they are the skippers and owners of the fishing vessels.

Do gender relations matter in international trade relations? Are ideas about feminity and masculinity traded along with goods and services? Are the same gendered forces of our global market economy at play in the small village plant in the capitalist, democratic far North and a huge factory in communist China? Is the gendered division of labour in the Icelandic freezing plants exported and perhaps reinforced, to the Icelandic owned freezing plants in China? Known as the most valuable resource for global business (Peterson and Runyan 1999) and the ideal workforce (e.g. Caraway 2007) women in production are said to be cheap, as well as ‘docile and willing to work lon
g hours in dead-end jobs’ (Caraway 2007).  These attributes have been ascribed to women in labour intensive production especially in export processing zones (EPZ) in Asia. The research done by Pun Ngai (e.g., 1999, 2004) shows how ‘despotic labour regimes’ are created by global, national and not least local factors in China to the detriment of the well-being of the young migrant working women. While labour legislation is enforced in Iceland and freedom of movement is secured, could similar forces be at play in the (then) wealthy Nordic state known for its gender equality and welfare polices?

According to a study on Icelandic women, who have worked in fish processing most of or all of their working lives (Karlsdóttir, 2006), there are some similarities. The women are hard workers and serious about their jobs. Nevertheless, they receive low salaries and little respect and the public image of their jobs is poor. Most of them have never been offered promotion and they are hard to find in management or quality control positions. Commencements are exceptional, complaints are not. The gendered division of work in the high-tech fish processing and freezing plants of Iceland is clear. It seems that women can and will do all the different[SP1]  tasks while most of the male workers will neither pack nor debone. This work requires ‘nimble fingers’ and men are not understood to have such skills. The packing and deboning task seems to be the one most related to femininity and it is one of the most repetitive and strenuous types of work. One factor explaining why women kept their dead-end jobs in the plants was that it was easy to control the number of days they worked. The way women organise their paid work ensures responsibility for their families and thus for most of the caring in the community. Should they be labelled a ‘docile workforce’?

Concluding remarks

Despite different working and life conditions between women in Iceland and China there are similarities. The gender division of labour is a factor that has to be reckoned with in order to promote and protect human rights in foreign trade policy. To what extent are the economic and trade ties between Iceland and China based on mutual respect and benefit, also for women in both countries? Women in the fish industry in small communities in Iceland seem to lack status to pursue power to influence local and national politics of the industry. Are they glued to the ‘sticky floor’ in the plants and stuck in their local communities, while their Chinese co-workers are at least temporarily mobile and even experiencing personal and financial freedom for the first time? Will ongoing trade relations and the free trade agreement between Iceland and China reinforce the gendered hierarchies in these two societies or is it possible for both trade relations and human rights to thrive?  This is a major challenge in a globalized world.


Ásgrímsson, Halldór (1998) Report of the Foreign Minister to the Althing. Gazette of the Althing, B-deild 1997-1998.

–         (2005) Speech at the Business Forum of the Chamber of Commerce, February 2005.

Caraway, Teri L. (2007) Assembling Women. The Feminization of Global Manufacturing. New York: Cornell University Press.

Enloe Cynthia (1990) Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. London: Pandora.

Hjartardóttir, Guðbjörg Lilja (2009) “Performance and Contribution of Iceland in the International Human Rights Regime 1946-1994.”  Forthcoming.

Karlsdóttir, Anna (2006)   “Women’s dilemma in times of changing labour conditions in the Eastern part of Iceland” (Tvístígandi konur á tímum atvinnuháttabreytinga á Austurlandi). Public lecture at the ReykjavíkurAkademía 10. October 2006.

Pateman, Carole (1989) The Disorder of Women. Democracy, Feminism and Political Theory. Cambridge: Polity Press & Basil Backwell.

Peterson, Spike V., Anne Sisson Runyan (1999) Global Gender Issues: Dilemmas in World Politics.  Colorado and Oxford: Westview Press.

Pun, Ngai (1999) “Becoming Dagongmei (Working Girls): The Politics of Identity and Difference in Reform China.” The China Journal 42 (July) pp 1-18.

Pun, Ngai (2004) “Women Workers and Precarious Employment in a Shenzhen Special Economic  Zone.” China Gender and Development Vol. 12, 2  pp 29-36.

Ruggie, John (2008) Protect, Respect and Remedy: A Framework for Business and Human Rights” Human Rights Council, A/HRC/8/5, 7 April.  (available  http://www.reports

Sigurmundsson, Arnar (2007) Skýrsla stjórnar og ræða formanns Samtaka fiskvinnslustöðva á aðalfundi 28 September.

Skaptadóttir, Unnur Dís (2000) “Women coping with change in an Icelandic fishing community: A case study”  Women’s Studies International Forum (2000) Vol. 23, 3, pp 311-321.

Tickner J. Ann (2001) Gendering World Politics: Issues and Approaches in the post-Cold War Era. New York, Chichester, West Sussex: Columbia University Press

From Thailand to Svalbard: migration on the margins by An-Magritt Jensen

Halfway between the European mainland and the North Pole, a group of islands, Svalbard, has become a Thai diaspora in miniature. Longyearbyen, the only place with permanent settlement, is a tiny city with only 2,000 inhabitants. Norwegians are in the majority and make up 85 per cent of the population. But among the 30 other nationalities present, the Thai population is the largest group, numbering about 70 individuals. While migration from Thailand to other Western countries is dominated by single women, both genders migrate to Svalbard and arrive in all family statuses. They come for work. Gender is not decisive for the migration flow but important for life conditions in Svalbard.


An open door to Europe?


Svalbard was a ‘no-man’s land’ for hunting and fishing for centuries until the beginning of the 20th century when coal mining began. The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 established the area as Norwegian territory. The Treaty came into force on 14 Auguat 1925 when Norway assumed sovereignty by introducing the Svalbard Law and the Mining Code; the rights to entrance and economic activities are open. Migration regulations to Europe (the Schengen Agreement) do not count. Anyone can come to Svalbard, but it is not an open door to Europe. Residents gain no right to visa no matter the length of stay.

This is the background for the stream of migration from Thailand. In addition, Svalbard is a place where salaries are high and taxes are low. Possibilities for economic gains are extraordinary. However, risks of failure are large and social rights are linked to the migrants’ homeland.

This article is based on the research project ‘Svalbard families’ (with Kari Moxnes) primarily focused on Norwegian families. Thais were involved as the largest minority group (Jensen, 2008). Data were collected in 2006 and included 14 Thai interviews.


The first entrances: marriage migration

To understand the Thai migration to Svalbard we need to go back to 1975, when an all-year airport was opened and isolation from the outside world was broken. Svalbard used to be a society for single men working in the coal mines. The airport, together with family housing and services, attracted families with women and children to the place. Today, 40 per cent of the adult population is female. However, the society is still dominated by men of legal working age. The airport also gave miners the possibility to travel to distant places, such as Thailand. Some miners who travelled there brought wives back. Until the mid-1990s, only a few Thai women, married to Norwegian men, had settled in Svalbard. Over the last decade, these pioneers have become recruiters of fellow countrywomen in a flow of migration.


Recent entrances: labour migration

During hard economic times in Thailand in the late 1990s, migration became a solution for many poor people in the rural areas (Plambech, 2007). During visits to their home areas in Thailand, pioneer migrants from Svalbard were living examples of the gains of migration. They recruited new migrants, as described by Ratana (2006): ‘They begin their transnational migration through following one of their family members, relatives or friends who have already settled overseas. Those people would provide newcomers with initial logistical support including orientations of how to live in a foreign land, visa, air tickets, temporary jobs and housing for the first three months …’ (p. 11). However, migration to Svalbard differs from descriptions of migration to other Western countries, where marriage plays a major role. In contrast to other Western countries, also Norway, where migrants are primarily unmarried women entering through transnational marriage, migrants to Svalbard come for work. At Svalbard labour migration prevails. This has consequences for the gender composition of migration and the marital status of migrants.

While migration from Asia is heavily dominated by women (UNFPA, 2006), about one third of migrants to Svalbard are men. Furthermore, the migrants arrive in all family types. Among the informants interviewed, eight were married to a Thai while six, all women, were single. All but two were parents. Some had children in Svalbard, while others had left them behind in Thailand. The ages of the informants ranged from the early 20s to the mid 50s.

Gender composition and family status may illustrate how global policies impact the ways in which migration is accomplished. If marriage is the key to residence, migrants will be women only. If residence is independent of marriage, both genders can migrate. This distinction has implications for life conditions. In marriage migration women will depend on the Western husband. In contrast to this general trend, Svalbard migrants depend on their Thai network, and latecomers rely upon recruiters’ ability and willingness to provide work and a place to live.

Recruiters help fellow villagers to migrate at the same time, and as Suksomboon (2007) states, such assistance has become ‘… a lucrative business for the pioneer migrants.’  Migrants are often indebted to the recruiters, Plambech (2007) also finds. The recent stream of Thai migration to Svalbard confirms that latecomers had an obligation to work for the recruiters for a certain period of time (such as three years).  They spent a long time paying back debts and depended on their network for housing and a social life. At the same time the work conditions could be very difficult with low payment, little control over working hours and strained relationships to the recruiters.

Thai migrants in Svalbard have no residence or work permits. Their status is legal but undocumented. They enter the labour market where their recruiters, women who married Norwegian men, initi
ally had found work: in the cleaning industry. Latecomers, men and women alike, work as cleaners which in mainland Norway is a heavily female occupation. Unlike domestic aides in Europe, Thai migrants in Svalbard do not live with the resident family. They do the cleaning and laundry of private homes, hotels, public buildings and companies on an hourly basis. Thai recruiters are in command of the quantity of work, working conditions and salaries of latecomers. As more Thais enter the labour market, competition for work increases. If latecomers run into problems with the established power structures of the Thai network they have nowhere to turn. The undocumented status submits immigrants to uncertainty even if residence is legal. As noted by Anderson (2000: 179), ‘…being undocumented never serves the workers’ interests.’ Partnering with a Norwegian man is one way of escaping dependence on the recruiters.


Improving life conditions: partnering with a Norwegian

Success and failure of immigrants to Svalbard intersect with the particular legal status of the area. No registers document living conditions and social security is linked to the homeland. Language barriers are profound. Working and living conditions are invisible to society at large. The relationship between Thais and the majority population is similar to what Anderson describes, in that: ‘… their social worlds do not touch’ (2000: 145). Svalbard is a place for people who are able to manage by their own means only.

Partnering with a Norwegian man is a way for women to lessen their dependence on the Thai network. The fieldwork displayed considerable differences in life conditions among Thais living in a transnational partnership, and those who did not. Women who had lived with a Norwegian had improved housing standards and better working conditions. Importantly, for single mothers who had left children in Thailand, a Norwegian man could provide economic guarantees for bringing them to Svalbard. Visits to mainland Norway became an option. All women interviewed who had entered Svalbard as single, had partnered a Norwegian man, or were hoping to. Thus, a Western man remained important for well-being, although not for residence.


Migration on the margins

Svalbard is on the border of human existence, a tiny opening into a Western world. Migration can be lucrative but is not without costs. While borders are open and salaries are high, social security is minimal. Furthermore, without a visa no one can leave for any visa-demanding country. Life is confined to Longyearbyen with only a 50 km long road system, long and very cold winters, polar nights, permafrost, and polar bears restricting outdoors movement. The axis of mobility is between Longyearbyen and Thailand by air.

Recent migration flow from Thailand signifies how a locality at the margins has become a target for a group of people with no other places to go. The visa-less border makes migration possible but migrants are trapped between the undocumented and the legal. Both men and women enter Svalbard and they come for work. But the single women who had married a Norwegian man later on obtained advantages unavailable to Thai couples or single Thai men. Thus, gender remains important to life conditions after migration even if the migration itself is gender neutral.



Anderson, B. (2000): Doing the Dirty Work? The Global Politics of Domestic Labour. London: Zed Books.

Jensen, A.-M. (2008): ‘No trees to see: Thai-life in permafrost’, in Jensen and Moxnes (eds.): Life in Longyearbyen, Tapir Academic (in Norwegian)

Plambech, S. (2007): Managing Migration – Risks and Remittances among Migrant Thai Women. Master Thesis, Institute of Social Anthropology, Lund University

Ratana, T. B. (2006): Cross-Cultural Marriages and Transnational Gender Mobility: Experiences of Village Women from Northeastern Thailand. Paper at International Conference on Intermediated Cross-border Marriages in Asia and Europe. Sept. 18-20, 2006, Academia Sinica, Taipei

Suksomboon, P. (2007): Remittances and ‘Social Remittances’: Their impact on Lived Experiences of Thai Women in the Netherlands and Non-Migrants in Thailand. Paper at International migration, multi-local livelihoods and human security: Perspectives from Europe, Asia and Africa. 30 and 31 August 2007, Institute of Social Studies, The Netherlands

UNFPA (2006): A Passage to Hope. Women and International Migration. State of World Population


An-Magritt Jensen, professor in sociology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Areas of research: demography, family, children’s welfare.

Recent publications:

‘Mobile Children: small captives of large structures?’ Children & Society, Vol 23, No. 2: 123-135

‘Pluralisation of family forms’. In Qvortrup, Corsaro, Honig and Valentine (eds) Handbook of Childhood Studies, Palgrave (in print)


The contradictory impact of globalization and migration on gender equality by Professor Birte Siim

The challenges from globalization and migrationGlobalization is contested, and the meanings of globalization need to be discussed within different contexts. Trans-nationalism challenges established research paradigms connected to the nation states.  One of the challenges of gender research is arguably to focus on diversities among women within and between nation states, for example between women in the North and in the South, East and West. As illustrated by the articles in this issue of Asia Insights, migration is a transnational phenomenon where people, capital, and civil society organisations increasingly move across borders.  Research has emphasised the important linkage between the external and internal dimensions of migration. Migration thus illustrates the growing interconnection between the global, national and local arenas, and migration processes can illuminate the linkages between classical social science concepts such as social rights, political practices and belongings. Migration is gendered in a number of ways. One obvious example is that push and pull factors related to migration are different for men and women. Women from the South often come to the North through family unification, marriage or as (sex) workers. Immigrant women are often the victims of globalisation and tend to constitute the most vulnerable groups as undocumented and legal immigrants and refugees.

‘The local-global dialectic’

The German sociologist Ulrick Beck has discussed the implications of the ‘local-global dialectic’ (2002). He defines globalization as” A non-linear dialectical process in which the global and the local do not exist as cultural polarities but as combined and mutually integrating principles. These processes involve not only interconnections across boundaries but transform the quality of the social and political inside nation-states” (Beck 2002, p. 17). Beck has convincingly argued that instead of investigating the global on an entirely abstract general l level, we should organize a ‘historically sensitive empiricism’ to study the ambivalent consequences of globalization in cross-cultural and multi-local research networks.

The local-global dialectic represents one of the crucial dilemmas of cosmopolitan societies due to the diaspora question: how will being at home far away – being at home without being at home – be possible? This is a complex issue which affects people differently and needs to be addressed from the perspectives of male and female migrants, of organizations, networks and  companies. The ‘multicultural dilemma’ represents another crucial dilemma, in that multiculturalism fosters an individual who remains dependent on his/her original cultural space. Beck’s notion of internal globalization is one way to integrate the two dilemmas that need to be explored in greater detail with a view to understanding the gendered implications of globalization.

Gendering globalization

Feminist scholarship has analysed the gendered effects of globalization,; European integration and migration (see Sassen 2001). One approach has addressed the implications of globalization on women’s position in the labour market, and has often emphasised convergent trends and negative effects of neo-liberal policies leading to the marginalization of migrant women workers and the feminization of poverty. Another approach has addressed political globalization and the barriers and potentials of global processes for gender equality, women’s empowerment and trans-national struggles.  This approach often focuses on the new transnational sites intended to strengthen gender equality and expand women’s rights across nation states, for example through the EU gender regime and human rights regime (Squires 2007).  The new global political reality raises many challenging issues for gender research.  One way to address these issues has been through diversity and intersectionality frames (Yuval-Davis 2007, Squires 2007).

The political theorist Judith Squires (2007) has recently analysed the contradictory logic of globalisation from a perspective of gender equality. Her book “The New Politics of Gender Equality” gives an overview of the global gender equality breakthrough by national governments, international organizations like the UN, and transnational structures like the EU. The main argument presented in the book is that there is a new global gender equality agenda, which is spread by three key strategies: gender quotas, women’s policy agencies and gender mainstreaming. The book gives an excellent illustration of the contradictory logic of globalization: it makes visible the paradox that gender equality can on the one hand be threatened by diversity, for example when immigrant groups in Denmark do not have the same rights as ethnic Danish groups.   On the other hand, globalization also presents new possibilities for gender equality, and has become part of a new transnational diversity agenda.  These new possibilities can for instance present themselves when Western NGOs move to Asia.  There is a tension between the diversity approach that focuses on inequalities along multiple axes of inequality, and the approach that focuses on women viewing gender (in)equality as the main problem. This tension has raised new questions and debates about how to create new forms of solidarity between women while acknowledging different experiences and positions, for example according to race/ethnicity, nationality and religion.

The multicultural dilemma

One way to deal with the diversity of religious and cultural groups is through the multicultural paradigm. Will Kymlicka’s work on Multicultural Citizenship (1995) presents a defence of ethno-cultural group rights for indigenous peoples, such as Aboriginals in Australia and Indians in North America, and the poly-ethnic rights of new immigrant groups. The multicultural paradigm was criticised by Susan Moller Okin in the provocative article “Is multiculturalism bad for women?” (1999). She claimed that there is a contradiction between multiculturalism, defined as protection of the cultural rights of minorities, and women’s rights. This provoked an intense debate in the US, which spread to Europe.

In his response to Okin, Kymlicka argued that feminism and multiculturalism are potential allies in a struggle for a more inclusive concept of justice, based upon a combination of individual and collective rights, which takes account of both gender-based and ethnic diversity. Okin was heavily criticised by different scholars, including many feminists, who argued that her approach was based upon an essentialist perception of ‘culture’ and that her analysis forced minority women to chose between ‘my rights and my culture’. Okin has later modified and contextualised her position em
phasising that she is not against collective rights per se and that one of her main points was that women should have a voice in negotiations between the majority and minority cultures about group rights (2005; 88-89).

There has recently been a growing concern in political and gender theory framed as “the paradox of multicultural vulnerability”, i.e. that vulnerable social groups’ needs and interests can be undermined by group rights.  The concern has especially been about ensuring that women and other vulnerable groups have a voice and influence in both minority cultures and in society (see for example Eisenberg et. al. 2005). Feminist scholarship agrees that women in minority cultures need to be respected both as culturally different from the national majority and also need to be treated as equals by both the majority and minority cultures.  For example, immigrant women from Asia living in the Nordic countries as students, workers or spouses either by marriage or family unification must have their equal and cultural respected.

Rethinking gender justice in times of globalization

It is important to rethink gender justice in times of globalization and to overcome the tensions in gender justice between equality and diversity.  All social and cultural groups must be included in negotiations about social justice. One solution to overcoming the tensions is to extend the emphasis on gender inequality to multiple inequalities. Intersectionality has become an influential theoretical approach that has contributed to conceptualizing the intersections of gender with other differences and inequalities such as ethnicity/race, sexuality and religion. Nira Yuval-Davis has conceptualized intersectionality from a trans-national perspective in her analysis of gender and nationality, citizenship and ‘politics of belonging’ (2006) focusing on the intersections of gender, ethnicity and nationality. This approach points to a multilayered framework of citizenship, which is democratic, feminist and able to link the national and trans-national levels in what she defines as ‘a politics of belonging’. This vision needs to be explored further through practical research, for example by looking at migration from Asia to the Nordic countries, focusing on how gender intersects with ethno-national and cultural belongings for women of Asian backgrounds living in different Nordic localities.


Beck, Ulrick (2002).”The cosmopolitan society and its enemies”, Theory, Culture and Society

Eisenberg, Avigail & Jeff Spinner Halev eds. (2005). Minorities within minorities. Equality, Rights and Diversity,Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kymlicka, Will (1995). Multicultural Citizenship, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kymlicka, Will (1999). “Liberal complacencies”, pp. 31-34 in Okin, Susan Moller with Respondents (1999). Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Okin, Susan Moller with Respondents, ed. By Joshua Cohen, Matthew Howard and Martha Nussbaum (1999), Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Okin, Susan Moller (2005).”Multiculturalism and feminism: no simple question, no simple answers” in Eisenberg, Avigail & Jeff Spinner Halev (2005). Minorities within minorities. Equality, Rights and Diversity,Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp 67-89.

Sassen, Saskia (2001). “The global city: Strategic site/new frontier”.

Squires, Judith (2007). The New Politics of Gender Equality, Palgrave/Macmillan.

Yuval-Davis, Nira (2006). “Intersectionality and Feminist Politics” in European Journal of Women’s Studies, vol 13, 3; 193-209.

Chinese Migrant Women Workers in a Dormitory Labour System by Pun Ngai

Under the Chinese dormitory labour regime the lives of women migrant workers are shaped by the international division of labour. The dormitory labour system is a gendered form of labour use to fuel global production in new industrialized regions, especially in South China. The system also forms the basis for the development of class consciousness and alternative struggles for labour rights.       

China is well known as a ‘world factory’, attracting transnational corporations (TNCs) from all over the world, especially from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, USA, and Western Europe. Rapid expansion of export-oriented production has led to a sharp rise in jobs in private, foreign-owned, and joint-venture enterprises that dot the coastal cities of China. The formation of a new working class of internal rural migrant labourers, in contrast to the Maoist working-class, has been taking shape in contemporary China. The Fifth National Population Census of China in 2000, estimated that there were over 120 million internal migrant workers in cities, and today the estimates range from 130 to 200 million persons.



Since the early 1990s the development of special economic zones and technology development zones across China, similar to the development in most other developing economies, was based on a massive harnessing of young workers, in particular of unmarried women, who are often the cheapest and most compliant labour (Lee 1998). These women migrant workers – dagongmei – constitute a new gendered labour identity, produced at the particular moment when private and transnational capital emerged in post-socialist China. As a newly coined term, dagongmei embraces multi-layered meanings and denotes a new kind of labour relationship fundamentally different from those of Mao’s period. Da-gong means “working for the boss” or “selling labour”, which connotes commodification and a capitalist exchange of labour for wages (Pun 2005). It is a new concept that stands in contradiction to Chinese socialist history. Labour, especially alienated (wage) labour, supposedly emancipated with the Chinese revolution, is again sold to the capitalists, and this time under the auspices of the state. In contrast to the term gongren, worker, which carried the highest status in the socialist rhetoric of Mao’s day, the new word dagong signifies a lesser identity – that of a hired hand – in a new context shaped by the rise of market factors in labour relations and hierarchy. Mei means younger sister. It denotes not merely gender, but also marital status – mei is unmarried and young, and thus often of a lower status.

These rural migrants are identified as temporary residents who work in a city and who lack a formal urban household registration (hukou). The hukou system, which is still mostly in place, now helps to create exploitative mechanisms of labour appropriation in the cities. The maintenance of the distinction between permanent and temporary residents by the hukou system facilitates the state’s shirking of its obligation to provide housing, job security, and welfare to rural migrant workers. China’s overall economy, while it needs the labour of the rural population, does not need the city-based survival of that population once demand for rural-to-urban migrants’ labour power shifts in either location or emphasis. This newly forming working class is permitted to form no permanent roots and legal identities in the city. Still worse, the hukou system, with its labour controls, constructs the ambiguous identity of rural migrant labour and simultaneously deepens and obscures the economy’s exploitation of this huge population. Hence, this subtle and multi-faceted marginalization of a vast swath of the rural labour supply has created a contested, if not a deformed, citizenship that has disadvantaged Chinese migrant workers attempting to transf
orm themselves into urban workers. The Chinese term mingong (‘peasant-workers’ or temporary workers) blurs the lines of identity between peasant and worker.


Since the set-up of four economic special zones in South China in the early 1980s, the new export-oriented industrialized regions dominated by foreign-invested companies have witnessed a systemic use of the dormitory labour system. The foreign-invested companies, irrespective of their industrial sectors, all have to provide accommodation to their workers in order to keep their laborers. Combining work and residence under the dormitory labour system, production and daily reproduction are hence reconfigured for the sake of global capital use, with daily reproduction of labour entirely controlled by foreign-invested or privately owned companies.

This dormitory labour system regime in China is not a new arrangement under capitalism. The dormitory use for labour has a long history both in a western or eastern context of industrialization (Pun and Smith, 2007). However the Chinese dormitory labour system is unique in the way that dormitories are available to all workers and industries regardless of factory conditions. The widespread availability of industrial dormitories not only constrain the mobility of labour, it also facilitates it. The distinctive nature of the Chinese dormitory labour system is also for short-tenure migrant labour within the factory compound or close to it. In China, the state still plays a very substantial role in shaping labour markets, regulating labour mobility from rural to urban industrial areas and providing housing accommodation to migrant workers. In most of the newly industrial towns, the Chinese state initially provides the dormitories for the factory owners to rent. As housing provision is not for families, there is no interest from capital in the reproduction of the next generation of labourers. The focus is on maximizing the utilization of labour of the temporary, migrant, and contract labourer by controlling the daily reproduction of their labour power.

The political economy of providing accommodation close to the factory is the linkage it supports between state and the capital. Since the migrant working class is deprived of citizenship rights to stay in the city, the state through residency controls allows labour mobility, but workers must have employment to support temporary residence. Dormitories facilitate the temporary attachment or capture of labour by the companies, but also the massive circulation of labour, and hence the holding down of wages and the extensive lengthening of the working day, as working space and living space are integrated by the employer and state. A hybrid, transient workforce is created, circulating between factory and countryside, dominated by employers’ control over housing needs and state controls over residency permits.

One characteristic of China’s foreign-invested manufacturing plants is the housing of migrant workers in dormitories attached to or close to a factory’s enclosed compound. On finishing their labour contracts on average after one to two years, the  workers must return to the place of birth or find another temporary employment contract (Solinger 1999), again to be confined in the dormitory labour regime. Factory dormitories thus attach migrant workers for short-term capture, and accommodation does not function for the long-term or protracted relationship between the individual firm and the individual worker, which is the rationale for accommodation in other paternalistic factory forms such as Japan which can be life-long.

Management within the foreign-invested or privately owned companies would appear to have exceptional controls over the workforce under the system. With no access to a home space independent of the enterprise, working days are extended to suit production needs. Compared to the ‘normal’ separation between work and home that usual factory arrangements entail, the dormitory labour regime exerts greater breadth of control into the working and non-working day of the workers.

Gender is central to this specific embodiment of Chinese dormitory labour system and the formation of the transient working class. For the past two decades, among the exodus of internal migrant workers into the industrial cities, young women are among the first to be picked up by the new export-oriented industries. Young women constitute a high proportion of the factory workers, above 70% of the total workforce in garments, toys and electronics industries (Lee, 1998; Pun, 2005). Their gender, in addition to their youth and rural migrant status, is an integral part of China’s export-led industrialism facilitating global production for the world market.

As sites of control and resistance, the dormitory labour system simultaneously provides workers the opportunities to resist management practices and achieve some victories in improving working conditions. Ultimately, the ability of workers to fundamentally challenge the conditions of work and dormitory living is limited by the temporary nature of the employment contracts and their disempowered status as temporary urban residents.

A new working class consciousness

I have argued that employers’ use of dormitory labour, which has linked itself to both labour migration and daily labour reproduction, serves global production by generating hidden and therefore largely invisible costs borne by the migrant women workers. The situation has deteriorated further now that local governments within China compete for foreign investment and thus openly neglect the labour regulations and the social provisions implemented by China’s local, provincial, and national governments. The costs of daily labour reproduction are largely undertaken by the dormitory regime, which subsidizes the living cost of labour in terms of wages, accommodation, and consumption. The labour reproduction of the dormitory regime has sustained cheap labour in China over the past two decades.

Hence, the systemic provision of dormitories for internal migrant labour facilitates the continuous access to fresh labour reserves from the countryside. The dormitory labour regime concentrates labour, nurturing workers’ consciousness in face of acute exploitation by capital; but as high circulation of labour power of a transitory semi-proletarianised class, it also inhibits the workers to stay stable enough within one place or space, to form a continuous working-class community. No doubt the dormitory labour regime in concentrating and yet circulating labour between capitals creates a powerful production regime to spatially contain the formation of a new working class, but dialectically also becomes a bedrock for nurturing acute class consciousness and facilitating class actions in the future.

The battle for this new working class requires both struggles against capital and state. Against state, the migrant workers have to launch an urban citizenship rights struggle in order to gain the right to settle down in the industrial cities and towns and create their own working-class community. Against capital, the workers need to look for alternative way of organizing since traditional trade union struggle is not effective, if not allowed, in a dormitory labour regime in China. Dormitory-based organizing along the line of gender helping generate sisterhood solidarity among workers hopefully will be one of the alternative struggles.

Gendering globalization by Cecilia Milwertz, Birte Siim and Zhao Jie

The current global financial situation bluntly and brutally brings home the fact that the global and local are closely connected in times of opportunity as well as crisis. The articles in this issue of Asia Insights are about intra-action between Asia, particularly China, and the Nordic countries. Intra-action is the word feminist theorist Karen Barad uses about phenomena that mutually integrate to affect each other, as opposed to interaction between separate entities. The articles emphasize that we can no longer only study Asia as a far-away entity. On the contrary, Asia and the Nordic countries are mutually present within each other in the form of flows of people, capital, production, products and ideas.

The articles are mainly drawn from the conference ‘Gender at the Interface of the Global and the Local – Perspectives from China and the Nordic Countries’. The conference was hosted by the Gender and Participation Research Centre and Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences and was held in November 2008 in China. It was the third conference in a series of Sino-Nordic Women and Gender Studies Conferences arranged with the support of NIAS and the Nordic Centre at Fudan University, Shanghai. An illustrated report of the conference is available in English and Chinese. The fourth conference will be held at Aalborg University, Denmark in 2011.

The construction of globalization is gendered and globalization affects both men and women. It is important to stress that gender studies are concerned with men and women, masculinities and femininities, and as many papers at the conference stressed, with the intersections of gender with multiple differences such as class, ethinicity and region. Nevertheless, papers at the conference and the articles in this issue of Asia Insights focus primarily on women. One reason is that studies of the feminization of poverty indicate that in many countries women are disproportionally negatively affected by globalization processes. Furthermore, many scholars fear that there is a danger that globalization and increased migration may have serious detrimental impacts on the gender equality that has been achieved around the world.

 In the introductory article Birte Siim addresses the ‘local-global’ dialectic focusing on contradictory aspects of globalization for women as well as for gender equality. She identifies key debates and competing approaches to understanding the gendered implications of migration, which is a prominent aspect of globalization processes. Two articles address migration issues in China and Norway. Pun Ngai discusses what she calls the ‘dormitory labour system’. The system is a gendered form of labour based on domestic rural to urban migration and underlies the booming years of China’s export-oriented industrial production. An-Magritt Jensen looks at the Norwegian island of Svalbard, which is a strange exception to the increased securitarization of European borders and is open to migration from Asia. Three articles are concerned with flows of knowledge, trade and capital into Asia. Shen Haimei writes about the flow of international development aid to China and the problems encountered by projects in Yunnan province. Lilja Hjartardottir analyses how Sino-Icelandic trade relations reflect and perpetuate gendered hierarchies of power, resources and labour in the two countries. Merete Lie and Ragnhild Lund have since the 1980s followed the transfer of Norwegian companies to Singapore and Malaysia, and more recently to China. Their article focuses on the meeting between a Norwegian company and Chinese employees. Finally, Nira Yuval-Davis elaborates on the paradoxical effects of globalization on gender relations, in the sense that women bear the brunt of the global political and economic crises. On this basis she claims that it is a crucial time for solidarity based on transversal politics and dialogues between different groups of women and men about political visions.

Asia is definitely no longer only something to be studied within the confines of the political or imagined demarcations. Asia is global and has spilled over various borders. Not only should future understandings of gendered globalization increase the focus on men and masculinities to achieve a fuller picture of how globalization is gendered, but research should also explore how these processes affect Asian women who have migrated to the Nordic welfare states as workers or through family unification. One important question is whether the strong emphasis on gender equality could create potentials for Asian women’s struggle for equal social, political and civil rights? The articles in this special issue demonstrate that Asian studies can benefit from increased collaboration with gender studies in the localities that Asia has migrated to and intra-acts with.


Cecilia Milwertz is senior researcher at NIAS.

Birte Siim is professor in gender studies, the Department of History, International and Social Relations (IHIS), Aalborg University, Denmark

Zhao Jie is professor and director of the Gender and Participation Research Centre, Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, China st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) }