Esther Ngan-Ling Chow is a Professor of Sociology at the
American University in Washington, D. C. She has also served as an adjunct faculty member in
the Center for Asian Studies and is affiliated with the
Women's and Gender Studies program at the University. Born
in Hong Kong, she did undergraduate studies in economics
and sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and
received her Ph.D. degree in sociology from the University
of California, Los Angeles. She is a feminist scholar, researcher,
and community activist, who integrates theory, research,
and praxis in her major works.
With broad interests, she has conducted numerous research
projects, including ones on the acculturation and feminist
consciousness of Asian American women; the work and family
lives of Chinese American women; the historical and ethnic
transformation of Chinatown in Washington, D. C.; and the
economic development, patriarchy, and intrahousehold dynamics
among high-tech workers in Taiwan. She is particularly interested
in theorizing and analyzing the interaction of race, class,
gender, and sexuality; politics of difference and identity;
and activism and social movements for social change and
global justice. As a recipient of several grants, she launched
a comparative study to examine the impact of economic development
on migration, employment life quality, and family well-being
in China and Taiwan.
A strong advocate of methodological triangulation, she
integrates both quantitative and qualitative research approaches
ranging through survey, field research, historical and comparative
study, global ethnography, and participatory action research
in her various projects. Inspired by Paulo Freire's pedagogy
of the oppressed, she has designed a critical feminist pedagogy
called the DEP (Dialogic, Experiential, and Participatory)
approach to create an interactive classroom for active learning
to empower learners as well as herself as a teacher.
She has received several awards, including the Outstanding
Scholarship Award in Social and Behavioral Sciences from
the Washington Academy of Sciences (1995), the Myers Center
Award for the Study of Human Rights for "the outstanding
work on intolerance in North America" (1997), the Mentoring
Award from Sociologists for Women in Society (2000), the
Distinguished Faculty Award from American University (2000),
and the Morris Rosenberg Award for Recent Achievement from
the District of Columbia Sociological Society (2002).
"Promising and Contested Fields: Women's Studies and
Sociology of Women/Gender in Contemporary China," Gender & Society 18
"Gender, Globalization, and Social Change in the 21st
Century," guest editor of this special issue for International
Sociology and also contributor of one article "Gender
Matters: Studying Globalization and Social Change,"
International Sociology,18 (2003): 443-460.
"Exploring Critical Feminist Pedagogy: Infusing Dialogue,
Participation and Experience into the Classroom," Teaching
Sociology 31 (2003): 259-275.
Transforming Gender and Development in East Asia.
New York: Routledge, 2002.
Race, Class, and Gender: Common Bonds, Different Voices.
Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1996.
Empowering Women in Migration and Development in
Much of the theorizing about globalization remains gender
neutral at the abstract and macro level, ignoring "development
with a women's face." I argue that gender matters for
understanding what globalization is and how it has influenced
gendered hierarchies and ideologies which, in turn, shape
gendered institutions, relationships, identities, and experiences
of women and men locally and internationally. In China's
response to global economic restructuring, one driving force
is internal migration that intricately links migrant labor
with global capital and transnational corporations mediated
by the socialist state and facilitated by local institutions.
Conceptualizing globalization as a gendered phenomenon,
my study systematically examines how social construction
of gender, compounded by other categories of social difference,
influences women workers' experience and migration outcomes
in China. The study investigates how women workers individually
and the state/non-state sectors of civil society collectively
respond to migration and employment issues by devising policies,
programs, and strategies to meet the practical and strategic
needs of migrant women workers for their empowerment. In
particular, I argue that migration is highly gendered, with
differential impacts on women and men laborers in the process
of development. One key research question is the extent
to which the migration process is empowering or disempowering
for women in the process itself and in the labor market.
Different ways in which women migrant laborers as social
actors exert human agency are explored as these women cope
with and sometimes resist the increasing levels of human
insecurity, job inequality, social marginality, and depletion
of citizenship rights that migration entails.
Using a participatory action research model, the project
employs a field research design, relying primarily on in-depth
interviews but supplemented by field observation, official
documents, and oral histories. Quota and snowball samplings
were used to select three groups of respondents for interview--
key state or local officials; NGO staff, union leaders,
and community activists; and 50 women workers at different
stages of migration (i.e., pre, during, and post) in two
regions of China, one rich (coastal cities) and another
poor (inland provinces) characterized by uneven development.
The study's significance lies in its critiques of and new
thinking about globalization and the cutting-edge issues
of human security, citizenship, workers' resistance, and
the rise of civil society and a labor movement in China;
in its research capability-building with local collaborators;
and in its first-hand rich evidence, policy relevance, and
examination of practical strategies for women's empowerment.
The research will contribute to study of empowerment as
a multi-dimensional concept, focusing on both its processes
and outcomes. These study plans directly support the NCS
fellowship program goals to forge new links among scholars
professionally and to build transformative community to
seek solutions to issues of inequality and social injustice
toward the global empowerment of women. The interdisciplinary
nature of this project will potentially contribute to cross-disciplinary
dialogue, exchange, and research collaboration with other