Based on extensive, multi-sited ethnographic research, this book focuses on the culture of work in today’s urban China and on how it has permeated beyond the workplace to shape bodily training, family life, and kinship and social relationships among white-collar women in their twenties and thirties. Facing challenges to cope with the increasingly intensified dual burden of work and family, whitecollar women are not turning their backs on their jobs but are turning their bodies and homes into work. In an era when the state and society heighten pressure on individual young women’s productivity and reproductivity at the same time, the book examines how white-collar women seek to protect their right to work, embody a work ethic, and make their reproductive life a productive domain. Integrating studies of labor, the body, gender, and kinship, this book shows how the ethics and strictly defined discipline of hard work and overtime work are transposed from the office cubicle to the gym and home. It thereby demonstrates how the emergence, embodiment, and extension of a work culture perpetuate the hegemony of the work ethic, and how they have exerted a profound impact on women’s bodies, selves, and lives.

chapter |28 pages


part I|70 pages


chapter 1|23 pages

The 6 p.m. Struggle

Changing Configurations of Work, a Culture of Overtime Work, and Corporate Governmentality

chapter 2|23 pages

Falling into the “Work Hole”?

Accommodating a Culture of Overtime Work

chapter 3|22 pages

Protecting Work

Desiring Stability, Developing the Worker-Self, and Improving Employability

part II|24 pages


chapter 4|22 pages

“You've Got to Have Core Muscles”

Disciplining Hardworking Bodies

part III|70 pages


chapter 5|22 pages

Women between Nei and Wai

Leaving Home to Work and Retreating from Work to Home

chapter 6|23 pages

Spreadsheet Wife and Pep Talk Mom

Turning Home into Work

chapter 7|23 pages

Doing the Job and Not Doing It Well

Grandmaternal Labor and Care Work in Urban Chinese Families