Unsettled “structure of feeling” of Chinese migrant workers
Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 18:2, 281-301, DOI:10.1080/14649373.2017.1309503
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14649373.2017.1309503
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 has analysed 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 current 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 sombre 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.