[URBANTH-L]announcement of a book

Tiantian Zheng Tiantian.Zheng at cortland.edu
Fri Apr 3 17:03:18 EDT 2009

_Red Lights: The Lives of Sex Workers in Postsocialist China_ by
Tiantian Zheng, 2009, University of Minnesota Press

A revealing and intimate study of rural Chinese women working in an
urban sex trade

In China today, sex work cannot be untangled from the phenomenon of
rural-urban migration, the entertainment industry, and state power. In
Red Lights, Tiantian Zheng highlights the urban karaoke bar as the locus
at which these three factors intersect and provides a rich account of
the lives of karaoke hostesses-a career whose name disguises the sex
work and minimizes the surprising influence these women often have as
power brokers.

Zheng embarked on two years of intensely embedded ethnographic fieldwork
in her birthplace, Dalian, a large northeastern Chinese seaport of over
six million people. During this time, Zheng lived and worked with a
group of hostesses in a karaoke bar, facing many of the same dangers
that they did and forming strong, intimate bonds with them. The result
is an especially engaging, moving story of young, rural women struggling
to find meaning, develop a modern and autonomous identity, and,
ultimately, survive within an oppressively patriarchal state system.

Moving from her case studies to broader theories of sex, gender, and
power, Zheng connects a growth in capitalist entrepreneurialism to the
emergence of an urban sex industry, brilliantly illuminating the ways in
which hostesses, their clients, and the state are mutually created in
postsocialist China.

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