University of Nottingham Ningbo China
  • Intranet

Migration, risk and social networks: A Chinese case

09 April 2014 (16:00-17:30)

The Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies is pleased to invite you to the public lecture presented by Dr Heather Zhang, a senior lecturer in Chinese social studies and Director of Postgraduate Studies at the White Rose East Asia Centre, University of Leeds, UK.

About the lecture

China has turned into a 'high risk' society since the start of the post-Mao reforms in the late 1970s. The reforms, while bringing about higher geographical mobility and diverse livelihood opportunities, have seen greater penetration of the market forces in the public and social life with a much weakened role of the state in social protection and welfare provision. In this context, the distribution of and vulnerability to the rapidly proliferating economic and social risks have become increasingly differentiated (e.g. by class, gender, ethnicity) intersected with urban-rural inequalities. My paper examines this changing ‘risk landscape’, and attempts to apply a risk lens to the study of one of the most socially disadvantaged groups in China, namely rural-urban migrants. It analyses the narratives of members of a migratory family of the Hui national minority from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, who have run a family business across both geographical spaces and institutional boundaries over the past few decades. Drawing on data collected during ethnographic fieldwork between 2008-2011, the paper employs an actor-oriented theoretical perspective and qualitative longitudinal research methodology to delineate a translocal livelihood trajectory of this family across three generations, and to explore the relationships between entrepreneurship and risk, the importance of familial ties and social networks as a buffer against risk and its actualisation in the absence of, or difficulties in accessing formal institutional resources and social protection mechanisms, and the strategies employed by migratory individuals and families as social actors to deal with risks and socio-economic insecurity in their daily livelihood struggles.

Speaker biography

Dr Heather Zhang is senior lecturer in Chinese social studies and Director of Postgraduate Studies at the White Rose East Asia Centre, University of Leeds, UK. Trained as a political scientist, Dr Zhang’s research interests straddle both fields of international development studies and China studies. She specialises in development in China and Vietnam, as well as qualitative research methodology. Her recent research has focused on social policy and welfare system development (and their implications for social stability and social mobility), urbanisation and rural-urban migration, livelihoods, agricultural and rural development, health and wellbeing, urban poverty, homelessness, and sustainable and inclusive urban development and governance.