Chinese “female force” in an “American Factory”: Women’s identity formation in an English reading club

Zhen Troy Chen, La Mei Chen

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This paper investigates the mediated narratives and identity construction of a reading club of female workers in call centers of multinational corporations in Dalian China, where the discourse of an empowering ‘female force' has been popularized and scrutinized on Chinese social media. These professional workers manage and construct their emerging middle-class identities through embodied experiences and mediated discourses fostered by an English reading club that is both online and offline. Responding to recent critiques of neoliberal feminism in the Chinese context, this study uses a mixed-method approach to unpack the complex processes of these women's identity construction and performance through participatory reading practices. This includes ethnographic participant observation in offline reading club activities, in-depth interviews, and a discourse analysis of mediated narratives on social media (WeChat). We argue that Chinese working women's identity construction and performance are shaped by complex intersections of class, nation, gender and workplace/institutions, where their encounters are in flux, given the changing neoliberal globalization process after China’s four-decade long opening up reform. This study challenges and extends the critique of neoliberal feminism and finds evidence of agency and tactical engagement whereby female workers negotiate their emerging middle-class identities and forge possible solidarities within a networked workplace.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-183
Number of pages23
JournalAsian Journal of Women's Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2021


  • Chinese female force
  • negotiated identities
  • neoliberal feminism
  • reading club
  • tactical participation
  • womanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies


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