an anthropological study of migration in the Chaoshan

Shuhua Chen
PhD in Social Anthropology
Expected completion date: Jan 26, 2015
PhD Project Title:
Making home on the move:
An anthropological study of migration in the Chaoshan region in South China
This project is based on an anthropological study of migration in the Chaoshan region in
South China. My research investigates how migrant labourers make home on their journeys
away from home, and how they express and fulfil their identities through acts of homemaking. It focuses on seeking out individual human capacities to go beyond present
circumstances of being: making a home that is mobile rather than fixed, and making a home
that is imagined, rather than material. I will carry out ethnographic fieldwork in Chaoshan,
examining two practices of migration affecting the region in the last 150 years: the
international Nanyang (Southeast Asia) emigration (1860s - 1970s) and the interprovincial
immigration (1980s to present). By setting globalisation, transformation and migration in a
historical context, and through the approach of materiality, I will question the notion of
‘home’ and what it implies, particularly for Chinese migrants. I will examine,
ethnographically, the ideas of continuity and temporality in a changing society affected by
inward and outward migration. Finally, by addressing archives (in particular, of Qiaopi
remittance letters) as ‘silent field sites’, I will explore the methodological concept of ‘multisited’ fieldwork.
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