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  » Issue contents  2019-03-28 Fear as political dynamics
Fear as political dynamics: Chinese peasant workers’ struggle over social security
Wei SHI
 
ABSTRACT   This article attempts to understand the subject formation of Chinese peasant workers by exploring the emotional dynamics of their struggle for social security, in particular the new political possibilities created by emotional forces, and the complex ways they experience and articulate the distinctive kind of emotional politics that binds peasant workers with the state in their co-production of emotionally-charged power relations, identities and subjectivities. It formulates an analytical framework that explores the emotional politics of fear that plays out in the context of economic restructuring. In contemporary China, the conflict triggered by social insurance contributions has become a component of the ensuing social crisis, where many protest events are triggered by widespread outrage at the violation of legal rights to social insurance and other welfare security. This research focuses on the struggle of a group of peasant workers at a UNIQLO supplier in Shenzhen, exploring how their fears for the future are constituted, and how their emotional feelings of insecurity motivate collective action and reconfigures their emotional identity and subjectivity in the face of extreme risk. Informed by a relational understanding of emotions, this paper investigates the complex ways in which the proliferation of fear, as a result of “an anticipated pain in the future” (Ahmed 2004, 65), articulates the process of subject-making in the face of increasing instability and precarity. The study attempts to demonstrate the centrality of fear for China’s sociopolitical order and the radical action of labor resistance.
 
KEYWORDS: Peasant worker; social security; politics of emotion; fear; body; subjectivity; China
 
Notes on contributor
Wei SHI is an assistant professor at Department of Communication, University of Macau. Her articles appear in Taiwan: A Radical Quarterly in Social Studies, Reflexion, Journal of Youth Studies and Social Movement Studies. Her recent article on Chinese workers’ embodied struggle appears in Renjian Review ought (Taipei). Her current research interest is on cultural politics of emotions in Chinese societies.
 
    

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