The spatial politics of labor in China: Life, labor, and a new generation of migrant workers

Ngai Pun, Jenny Chan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


China's capitalist transformation offers us a non-Western perspective to understand the contradictions of transnational capital mobility, the working people's lives, and the changing role of the state. This economic and social transformation continues to require the acceleration of a specific proletarianization-successive generations of rural migrant workers (nongmingong) have become the mainstay of the country's export-processing sector, but they cannot become "free" laborers in the market. Within the dormitory labor regime, in which work and residence are tightly interconnected, workers turn the workplace and dormitory spaces into a battlefield to fight for their rights. Foxconn's cost-efficient use of dormitory labor ensures that its more than one million workers spend their off-hours just preparing for another round of production. Paradoxically, workers are claiming the limited living space and time to create and remix culturally diversified repertoires in struggles. Class analysis, as a weapon of progressive social change, has to be recast in the lived experience of the working class, in relation to party-state rhetoric.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-190
Number of pages12
JournalSouth Atlantic Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Literature and Literary Theory

Cite this