Cultures of Labor in Contemporary China

I’m pleased to announce the publication of “Cultures of Labor in Contemporary China,” a special issue of positions: asia critique (May 2023).–Paola Iovene <>

“Cultures of Labor in Contemporary China” offers an interdisciplinary investigation of the cultural and media practices of Chinese migrant workers, ranging from poetry to music and from oral storytelling to the use of social media. Contributors argue that “culture” acquires new salience with precarity on the rise and political advocacy increasingly constrained. Bridging textual and ethnographic approaches, this special issue details the negotiations that precarious workers engage in to make their positions visible, their lives livable, and their voices heard.

Table of Contents

Guest Editor’s Introduction: Cultures of Labor and the Labor of Culture
By Paola Iovene

Musica Practica: The Sound of the Beijing New Worker Band
By Yurou Zhong

I and We in Picun: The Making of Chinese Poet Xiao Hai
By Maghiel van Crevel

The “Unlikely Writers” from Picun: Reinventing Literature and Politics at the Migrant Workers Home
By Chun Chun Ting

Daizō Sakurai’s Trans-Asian Tent Theater, Picun, and the Reenchantment of Urban Space
By Justyna Jaguścik

Intersecting Labor in the Social Factory: Trajectory of a Migrant Woman in South China
By Mun Young Cho

The Worker-Poet as the Ethnographic Partner: Documenting the Emotional Pain of Rural Migrant Women
By Wanning Sun

Eistemic Labor: Narratives of Hyper-Uncertainty and Future-Making on China’s Urban Fringe
By Yang Zhan

Literature as Medium: The Development and Cultural Space of New Worker Literature
By Zhang Huiyu, translated and edited by Federico Picerni

Village Lunatics
By Li Ruo, translated by Jiarui Sun

Village Songs and the Building of Community Culture: A Talk
By Lü Tu, translated and edited by Siting Jiang

How to Create a New Workers’ Culture Together: An interview with Wang Dezhi
By Chun Chun Ting, translated and edited by Max Bohnenkamp

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