Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Patricia Ehrkamp


In China's urban metropoles, the hukou system of household registration regulates one of the largest movements of people in human history. While rural-urban migrations are reshaping societies worldwide, the migrants who make up a great portion of urban China's low-wage labor force and burgeoning population face unique legal and social challenges. Although the trajectories of their migration do not cross international boundaries, most are legally prevented from ever gaining the within China's hukou system of household registration. The functions of this system parallel those of national citizenship policies, and are difficult to explain through standard conceptions of sovereignty and national citizenship. Extending recent work in border studies that thinks of borders in dimensions that go beyond the line itself, this thesis argues that national borders and national citizenship should not be considered as the exclusive sites from which bordering processes emanate. Instead, I argue that citizenship and bordering processes can both take place apart from the norms of nation-state territory. Based on a series of qualitative interviews conducted in Shanghai and Anhui province, this article examines the structure and effects of the hukou system as it regulates legal inclusion and exclusion of migrant workers.