‘Anyway, you are an outsider’: Temporary migrants in urban China

Huimin DU*, Si Ming LI, Pu HAO

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we extend recent discussions on the relationship with the host place of ‘temporary’ or non-hukou migrants in major Chinese cities through the lens of three psychological processes: familiarity, attachment and identity. The empirical analysis is based on fieldwork conducted in selected villages-in-the-city in Guangzhou. A mixed methods approach is employed. The findings highlight the emotional distance between temporary migrants and their urban milieu: while some become familiar with the city through their prolonged stay, very few establish attachment and identity. The analysis shows that the dominance of indigenous villagers is a major obstacle for migrants to develop attachment to the given village-in-the-city; moreover, perceived institutional discriminations negatively affect migrants’ attachment to the city. The findings also corroborate a social constructionist perception of place identity: when place identity is legitimated and reproduced by the hukou system, it is difficult for migrants to challenge the hegemonic constructions of place and identity and to create their own narratives of identities.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3185-3201
Number of pages17
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding was received from the Hong Kong Research Grant Council General Research Fund, No: HKBU 245511.


  • people–place relationship
  • place attachment
  • place identity
  • spatial familiarity
  • temporary migrants
  • 人地关系
  • 地方依恋
  • 地方认同
  • 空间熟悉
  • 临时移民


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