Cover of Markets and Bodies by Eileen M. Otis
Markets and Bodies
Women, Service Work, and the Making of Inequality in China
Eileen M. Otis

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2011
232 pp.
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Cloth ISBN: 9780804776486
Paper ISBN: 9780804776493
Digital ISBN: 9780804778350
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Winner of the 2013 Distinguished Book Award, sponsored by the ASA Section on Sociology of Sex and Gender.

Insulated from the dust, noise, and crowds churning outside, China's luxury hotels are staging areas for the new economic and political landscape of the country. These hotels, along with other emerging service businesses, offer an important, new source of employment for millions of workers, but also bring to light levels of inequality that surpass most developed nations.

Examining how gender enables the globalization of markets and how emerging forms of service labor are changing women's social status in China, Markets and Bodies reveals the forms of social inequality produced by shifts in the economy. No longer working for the common good as defined by the socialist state, service workers are catering to the individual desires of consumers. This economic transition ultimately affords a unique opportunity to investigate the possibilities and current limits for better working conditions for the young women who are enabling the development of capitalism in China.

About the author

Eileen Otis is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Oregon.

"The volume provides a much welcome contribution to the literature on Islam and gender in Africa, and will be of interest to graduate students and scholars alike."

—Michelle Johnson, International Journal of African Historical Studies

"[Otis] provides refreshing, meticulous, theorized explanations of the naturalization of class distinctions via gender and sexuality in a growing, globalized, leisure economy."

—C. A. Jackson, CHOICE

"Most studies of globalization start at the top and move down, tracing the reconfigurations of local communities through economic integration. Eileen Otis's startling study starts at the bottom, in the corporeal, embodied work of hotel service workers, physically enacting the cultural signs of global understanding. Otis puts a human—and gendered—face on the other side of the global business traveler, and her contrast with local hotel workers both deepens our understanding of labor as it broadens our sense of globalization's emotional and embodied reach. This is the best kind of sociology: mindful of the big picture, but exquisitely sensitive to nuance and local variation."

—Michael Kimmel, Stony Brook University, author of The Gendered Society

"It is rare to read such an engaging book that captivates whilst making a challenge to our current understandings of work in its global manifestations. Using ethnographic case studies from Chinese service work this book performs two different types of spatial analysis: one between global and local spaces and one between the micro dynamics of interactive work to the structural logics of labour practices. By detailing how Chinese women live the transnational, regional, and local imperatives to perform femininity, Otis questions previous analysis of emotional, sense, and bodily labour. I'm sure this book will become, just like the classic Hochschild's Managed Heart, the new way to think about service performance."

—Bev Skeggs, Goldsmiths College, University of London

"Eileen Otis has written a sensitive, penetrating, genuinely enjoyable book—a rare accomplishment for a scholarly study and testimony to her cross-cultural sensibilities. It details the backstage ploys and intricate relationships among management, ordinary workers and sex workers at two Chinese five-star hotels. The themes cut across several fields—gender studies, labor studies, anthropology, and China studies. There is something for everyone."

—Anita Chan, University of Technology, Sydney

"Markets and Bodies is a beautifully observed, sometimes funny and sometimes frightening, account of service work, showing how inequalities of class and gender are being freshly created in the cauldron of Chinese capitalism. Uncomfortable realities of globalization are laid bare and new ideas about markets, embodiment, and consumption are proposed in this thought-provoking book."

—Raewyn Connell, University of Sydney