Unsettled structure of feeling of Chinese migrant workers – cases from the service sector of Shanghai
Abstract The suffering, struggling status and controversial political identity of Chinese internal migrant workers have put them in the academic spotlight for decades. An abundance of literature analyzed the problems faced by Chinese migrant workers from mainly three theoretical perspectives. However, not enough attention has been paid to migrant workers’ subjective understandings and feelings about their work and lives. The present article tries to illuminate the ambivalent feelings of migrant workers of the service sector in Shanghai, based on a brief comparison between migrant workers of three Asian countries, and the interviews with 16 Chinese migrant workers, two government officers and two local citizens in Yan community attached to Po district of Shanghai. It is argued that the migrant workers share an unsettled structure of feeling in everyday practices. They simultaneously feel bewildered and sanguine, depressed in a somber mood and happy, passionate and indifferent. The unsettlement of the structure of feeling constitutes a political passivity for migrant workers. It is urgent to find ways to break up such a stalemate of consciousness.
Keywords: migrant workers, unsettled structure of feeling, everyday life
Dr. Ming GAO is a lecturer in the Department of Cultural Studies, Shanghai University. She is also a member of the Centre for City and Country Cultural Studies of Shanghai University. She graduated with her PhD. degree from University of Birmingham, UK in 2012. Her research interests include migrant workers or “new workers,” Chinese social organizations and rural reconstruction movement. She started to participate in the voluntary activities of China’s rural reconstruction movement when she was a post-graduate student. Now she is still actively volunteering in the activities of labor projects in her spare time.