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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Crang, M.A. & Zhang, J. Transient Dwelling: Trains as places of identification for the floating population of China. Social and Cultural Geography. 2012;13:895-914.

Author(s) from Durham


China has experienced massive rural–urban migration, producing the huge so-called ‘floating population’ (liudong renkou). This article attends to what it means to be thus between places by focusing on the embodied and emotional experience of migrant travel. Each year sees the Spring Festival rush (Chun Yun) with the largest annual movement of people as millions of these rural migrant laborers (nongmingong) return to their homes for the holidays. The Spring Festival rush is marked by huge crowds queuing overnight for train tickets, with throngs of migrants carrying woven bags of belongings and gifts on their shoulders, who end up standing in the overcrowded ‘hard-seat’ carriages of trains. By closely reading some of the poems from the emerging genre of ‘Hired laborers literature,’ this article explores migrants' affective and emotional journeys. It argues that this transit experience is one of the key shared sites of common identification for a migrant population whose mode of inhabitation is through circulation and mobility. It also argues that mobility creates shared experiences characterized by specific corporealities, material cultures, and senses of social stratification.

Department of Geography