I am sitting writing this post not from my dormitory room in Shaoyuan at Peking University in Beijing, but from my home in suburban Washington, DC. I arrived back in the United States on Thursday, December 15th after about 17 hours of air travel.
My final week in Beijing was spent on writing a summary paper on my independent study, this project, to find some conclusions about the project and, in turn, demonstrate what I had learned over the past 3-½ months. Although in that paper I did make conclusions about Beijing’s migrant worker population, especially in terms of filial piety, a recurring theme here, education, and the adjustment from rural to urban life, I find a different purpose in the stories I have told in the past semester.
Yes, we can draw conclusions about China as a whole through these experiences. However, a part of me also says that instead of limiting our view to one nation, we should put these stores in context of the world’s workers. Look at these stories and compare them to your own country or community. I hope that they can serve as a tool for inspiration and action.
Along with my arrival, back in the United States comes the end of this chapter in the Pillars in Motion project. Although I will no longer be able to directly interview migrant workers, I hope that this blog can remain a place for discussion and the sharing of information. It is also my hope that the stories collected here can remain as somewhat of a historical record of the conditions of a few individuals in the Beijing of 2011. China (and our globe) is going through massive shifts very quickly, and the sociopolitical landscape displayed in these individuals’ lives may be quite different in a few years.
It has been an extraordinary opportunity to write about these workers over the past few months and it is an experience that will shape my worldview for the rest of my life. Before I wrap this post up, I just want to throw in a few acknowledgments:
This entire project would not have been possible without the help of my graduate research tutor/advisor, Ren Xiaoshuai (Helen). Helen was vital in finding interviewees and translating, as well as providing background research. If Peking University is supposed to have the best Chinese students, then Helen is proudly carrying that legacy!
Additionally, I want to thank all of the Pitzer College in China program staff for approving my crazy idea of a project, as a blog about migrant workers is far from standard ethnographic research.
My biggest thanks to my friends and family: from all of you on the Pitzer in China program with me, to those of you in Claremont and Washington, DC, your support helped me through every day of my experience.
Finally, I thank you, the reader, for taking the time to read these pieces. I know that time is valuable and the amount of information to consume is endless, so I will be forever grateful for you taking the time to read these works.
As I end this chapter of the project, a quotation comes to mind that my core course professor at Peking University, Lan Laoshi, would often cite during his seminar:
“Respect Complexity” – David Brinkley
Interviewing migrant workers, and indeed, being in China, provoked more questions than provided answers. Instead of finding that frustrating, we might come to accept this inherent complexity and, in turn, relish it.
Thanks again for reading! For my other blog, check out http://thericepapers.wordpress.com
As always, I appreciate any comments, questions, or feedback you have; feel free to post in the comments of any post or email me directly, firstname.lastname@example.org