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Digital Workshop Series "Digital Dialogues 數字對話" #9

07.09.2022 | 13:15 - 14:45

Im Rahmen der Digital Workshop Series "Digital Dialogues 數字對話" diskutieren Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler verschiedene Teilaspekte und Fragestellungen des Verbundprojekts.

Performing migrants: Narratives, strategies and identities of ethnic minority performers and beggars in China 

September 7, 2022, 1.15-2.45 PM

This Digital Dialogue looks into the social worlds of two very different marginalized groups in urbanizing China: Ethnic minority performers, and migrants engaged in panhandling. For both these groups, performances that showcase particular aspects of their identity to larger audiences, are a major part of their daily routine. The Digital Dialogue brings together Jingyu Mao (Bielefeld), and Ryanne Flock (Würzburg), who provide insights into their research, and discuss the common feature of performances.

Jingyu Mao’s PhD thesis focuses on the work and migration experiences of ethnic performers who are rural-urban migrants and (mostly) ethnic minorities, and whose work involves performing ethnic songs and dances at restaurants and tourist sites. Based on six months of ethnographic fieldwork and 60 interviews in Yunnan province, she uses the lens of intimacy to understand how performers constantly encounter various bordering processes, most notably in relation to the rural-urban divide, ethnicity and gender. In this dialogue, she will talk about how the cultural and social repertoire—what she calls ‘ethnic scripts’—deeply shape the ways migrant performers understand and do ethnicity, and how performers creatively position themselves against such narratives.

Ryanne Flock’s dissertation focuses on the social production of public space in Guangzhou through negotiations between the local state and various migrant groups, such as beggars. During her fieldwork (2010 to 2014), she interviewed 50 migrants who were panhandling at the time or in the past, and observed interactions with state authorities and begging performances in commercial, touristic, and religious areas. Moreover, she documented 42 written “begging stories” as part of these performances. In this dialogue, she will focus on the latter to discuss the cultural repertoire, role expectations and requirements of “being a beggar” in contemporary China.

After short inputs, the scholars will engage in a dialogue. The audience is welcomed to participate in the discussion.


Jingyu Mao received her PhD in Sociology from the University of Edinburgh. Her research interests include work and migration, ethnicity, gender, rural-urban divide, intimacy and emotion. She is now a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Bielefeld University, working for the ERC-funded project ‘WelfareStruggles’, which comparatively looks at welfare provisions for global factory workers in China and Vietnam. She is working on a monography based on her PhD thesis.

Ryanne Flock studied China Studies, Sociology and Economics at Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt University of Berlin. Subsequently, she worked as research associate at the DFG project “Megacities-Megachallenge. Informal Dynamics of Global Change” in Guangzhou, followed by a position as lecturer and coordinator of the master program Modern East Asian Studies at Goethe University Frankfurt/Main. Her research interests concentrate on China and its contemporary processes of modernization and urbanization, and the reciprocity of space and society. Her dissertation examined the social production of public space in Guangzhou in the course of appropriations and negotiations between the local state as well as street vendors, fortune-tellers and beggars. In February 2021, she joined the sub-project "Social Worlds: China's Cities as Spaces of Worldmaking".


Elena Meyer-Clement is associate professor of Chinese Studies at University of Copenhagen and co-PI of the “Worldmaking” project “Social worlds: China’s Cities as Spaces of Worldmaking”.


The participation at this event is open to everyone, who registers prior to the event: Registration