Rui Jie Peng

I am an Assistant Professor in Sociology at Lafayette College. I am a sociologist and ethnographer studying labor, gender, ethnicity, migration and development from global and transnational perspectives. I received my Ph.D. degree from the University of Texas at Austin. 

My current book project, Engendering Migration from the Margins: Rural Ethnic Women in Migrant-sending Communities in China, is a deep ethnography of marginalized ethnic-minority Qiang women in Sichuan Province, right next to Tibet. These are mothers in their 40s-60s who live and work in Himalayan highland Qiang villages, while their other adult family members have migrated to cities to find work in precarious labor markets. I spent fifteen months doing intensive and embodied ethnographic research, working along the Qiang women, participating in family and community events, and conducting interviews. My extensive field research examines the relationships between ethnic-minority migrants and their rural homesteads on China’s economic periphery. 

Engendering Migration from the Margins challenges the “left behind” paradigm in migration and development studies to foreground the proactive social, economic, and political strategies these women adopt to sustain migration and protect their families’ welfare in an increasingly precarious society. By telling nuanced stories of the labor and struggles of ethnic Qiang women who remain at home to support their families’ migrant workers, this book sheds light on how people marginalized by the state’s biopolitical governance seek meaningful work, inclusion, and claim identities as productive citizens in China’s increasingly precarious labor markets.

This research has received support from the American Council of Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, and International Journal of Urban and Regional Research Foundation

I have maintained ongoing research interests in China’s increasing investments in development projects in the Global South. For my master’s thesis, I use ethnography to examine the socio-political structures and the ensuing interactional dynamics of a transnational workplace created in China’s development projects in other Global South nations. Fluent in Spanish, I conducted intensive fieldwork and in-depth interviews with both the Chinese and Ecuadorian construction workers in a Chinese state-sponsored hydroelectric project in Ecuador.

My broader intellectual agenda is to better understand how socio-political change in the Global South shapes landscapes of inequality, social exclusion, and how people engage with and contest development priorities imposed by the state and capital.

For publications, see Publications. For more on me, see my CV.