Rebuilding China¶s Economy on Gendered Rural Family Labour: A Case Study of Generational Migration, Stasis and Ecological Degradation
Beginning with the experience of an elderly rural woman in Gansu province, this case study unpacks some of the implications of rebuilding China on a gendered division of rural family labour, with an emphasis on the aging population and the feminization of rural poverty and care work. Rural experiences are integral to the construction of gendered identities. Spatialized gender role labour divisions “naturalize” economic inequities (Little and Panelli 2003), which are easily exploited by neo-liberal capital, particularly when aligned with state controls. Feminist political analysis contributes to the project of Human Ecology, then, by af¿rming “curiosity about the gendered material conditions of lives rooted in speci¿c ecological contexts” and considering “the environmental effects of the forced integration of local environments/communities into global capital Àows, world trade regimes and military webs” (Seager 2003: 172). Failure to disaggregate gendered and generational data surrounding substantial shifts in human patterns of habitation obscures the place-bound gender hierarchies informing rural/urban binaries in China and elsewhere, as they are interwoven with troubling conditions faced by more mobile populations. The feminization of poverty through the harnessing of reproductive agricultural labour and care work to the capital production chain is profoundly implicated in economic practices that contribute to environmental degradation. Gender injustice thus postpones or pre-empts capacities for sustainability.