Rural Migrant Workers’ Narrative and Its Discontent: the Making and Remaking of Chinese Working Class Within Global Neoliberalism

Project Details


This project, “Rural Migrant Workers’ Narrative and its Discontent: the Making and Remaking of Chinese Working Class within Global Neoliberalism,” explores the linked relationship between rural migrant workers’ narrative and the global division of labor. The project claims that the production of rural migrant workers’ narrative within and without China helps normalize and reaffirm the loss of subjectivity and the impossibility of social mobility among this group in China’s economic modernity, facilitating state and global capital’s need to retain cheap labor and maintain social divisions. At the same time, migrant workers’ narrative, with a focus on the inhuman condition of Chinese migrant workers, problematizes the structural inequality embedded in the new global division of labor, challenges the existing social relations, and imagine alternative futurity for global readers. By comparing Chinese migrant workers’ narrative written in Chinese and English, the project examines how this body of work represents, mediates, and shapes workers’ relations with the Chinese nation-state and global capital. Borrowing from Jodi Melamed’s discussion on racial capitalism, the project studies how migrant workers’ narrative in English conceptualizes and produces Chinese workers as racialized subjects. Extending Neferti Tadiar’s research on migrant workers’ disposable life, the project explores the possibility of imagining alternative form of biopolitics as a means to resist the dehumanizing process of labor within global neoliberalism. I am particularly interested in how global Chinese migrant workers’ narrative, produced and consumed in different social and cultural contexts, frames workers’ inhuman condition and how such frameworks mediate global readers’ relations with workers and their understanding of existing economic systems.
Effective start/end date1/08/1831/07/20

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


  • Chinese rural migrant workers’ narrative
  • the rise of China
  • global division of labor
  • neoliberalism
  • globalization


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