Julia Chuang

Fall 2012

In agrarian Yali Town in Sichuan, China, the arrival of long-time migrants from Dalong Town, nearly 500 km away, has brought local farmers opportunities for livelihood and made migrant labor a primary export. Meanwhile, as land in Dalong is confiscated for speculative development, Dalong migrants are thrust into total market dependence, transforming the practice of “leaving to earn” into one of “leaving to escape”. This comparative ethnography traces mobility in the form of migrations and marriages from and between two rural communities during a historic juncture as Chinese development shifts from commodifying rural labor to expropriating rural land. As rural migrants turn from “safety-first” migrations, which prioritize arable subsistence to buffer the risks of market exposure, to practices of marital hypergamy and urban relocation, immobility emerges as a new form of market-induced precarity, producing in Dalong the pauperization of a left-behind population of dispossessed bachelors.