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Global Supply Chains of Desires and Risks: The Crafting of Migrant Entrepreneurship in Guangzhou, China


This dissertation examines how rural migrants' experiments with small-scale entrepreneurship serve as the intermediary links through which global commodity chains for fast fashion are anchored in post-socialist China. While anthropologists of transnational capitalism have examined the diversity through which market participants determine the movement of labor and capital across vast geographic distances around the globe, their works tend to rely on the stability of categories of people, objects, and practices. They overlook the ways in which people's identities shift and move within ongoing conditions of ambivalence and uncertainty.

Based on 22 months of fieldwork in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region, this dissertation underscores the shifting qualities of experiences among migrant entrepreneurs as they craft the transnational links of commodity production and exchange. I show how the global commodity chains for fast fashion link and de-link through the building and destruction of social spaces, through the production and challenges to social subjectivity, and through the intensification of gender and class-based inequalities. Drawing on participant observation and interviews with intermediary traders, migrant factory owners, and wage workers, this project asks: how do migrants in China negotiate the paradoxes of entrepreneurial freedom as they work through the political implications and affective dimensions of becoming entrepreneurial citizens?

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