Engendering Laoban: The Masculinisation of Bosshood and Uncertainty in Transnational Guangzhou, China

  • Research

n southern China, small-scale factory owners have forged cross-cultural collaborations with transnational brokers, suitcase traders and subcontracted agents, to create the cross-border partnerships that comprise the transnational supply chains on a global scale. In turn, the forging of these cultural and economic links has generated a platform upon which small-scale subcontractors, as well as other agents across the supply chains, call themselves “boss” by taking on the risks and rewards of entrepreneurial self-enterprise, while they embed their economic activities within the global economy. In the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region, gendered enactments of “bosshood” and other figures of capitalist accumulation are expressed through divergent performances of male mobility, as articulated and expressed through entrepreneurial and masculine “freedom” across various class groups. These enactments, in turn, are linked to specific labour practices, organisation of kin relations, and manipulation of transnational citizenship. The story of Mr. Cai, a forty-something successful real estate investor and owner of several garment factories based in Guangzhou, offers a glimpse into the cultural significance of the “boss” as an aspirational figure in contemporary China. More specifically, the accumulative strategies of Mr. Cai and his family highlight how the scaling of capitalist networks across provincial and national boundaries entails spatial and subjective transformations through which patriarchal figures emerge within transnational families.

Duke Faculty Artists/Collaborators

Cited Artists/Collaborators

  • Nellie Chu

Creation Date

  • May 7, 2022