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postgraduate thesis: The construction of an urban underclass : a cultural study of Chinese rural-urban migrant workers

TitleThe construction of an urban underclass : a cultural study of Chinese rural-urban migrant workers
Authors
Issue Date2015
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Ng, T. [吳婷]. (2015). The construction of an urban underclass : a cultural study of Chinese rural-urban migrant workers. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5558989
AbstractSitting on the throne of the world’s second largest economy, China’s swift turnaround has surprised both international and internal audiences. However, few have truly questioned the human costs that the country has endured to achieve such glory. The exploitation and oppression of rural-urban migrant workers are the main human costs that paved the way for the country’s wealth and prosperity. This thesis intends to differentiate from previous studies, which generally discuss the topic of rural-urban migrant workers from a socio-political point view, by exploring the matter from a cultural perspective. Through a close reading and deep analysis of literature produced by some highly talented migrant worker writers as well as by analyzing the representation of migrant workers in news reports and popular films and television series it will unveil the misrepresentations of rural-urban migrant workers in the dominant discourse. The main approaches to solving the rural problem, including the exploitation of rural-urban migrant workers, have been focused on using monetary means. However, this thesis argues that rural-urban migrant workers were exploited both physically as well as on a spiritual(i.e. cultural)level. Hence, the problem must be dealt with from a cultural approach. The representations of rural-urban migrant workers in both Chinese media and popular culture including television dramas, films and novels in general evoke a sense of pity among the audience. Due to the lack of understanding of their exploitation on a cultural level, rural-urban migrant workers’ frustrations and pains have been diminished as a pure dissatisfaction in money and living qualities which is widely recognized and pitied by the relatively well-off urban dwellers. Although this ideology of pity and concern might be welcome to a certain extent, it has led to an oversimplification in general when conceptualizing migrant workers’ issues. The rural-urban migrant workers have been passively represented as an underclass that the society very generously accepted despite their backwardness. Such representation serves two major purposes: firstly, most rural-urban migrant workers have internalized this concept which has led to their inability to discard the social stigma; secondly, the negative portrayal of such a social group or class somewhat diverts the attention of urban dwellers from their own situation, which in fact may not be much better than those migrant workers. Urban dwellers gain a sense of superiority when they take pity on rural-urban migrant workers that ironically refrains them from improving the conditions of rural-urban migrant workers. This sense of superiority has created a false consciousness among urban dwellers that the problems faced by rural-urban migrant workers are exclusive to this particular social group only. When in actuality, their problems such as inequality and lack of social protection are shared by most of the society. As a result, this thesis strongly suggests that the problems of rural-urban migrant workers should be treated as a concern among all levels in the society as it is the only way to solve the injustice in Chinese society once and for all.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
SubjectMigrant labor - China
Dept/ProgramComparative Literature
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/216276

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorNg, Ting-
dc.contributor.author吳婷-
dc.date.accessioned2015-09-08T23:11:36Z-
dc.date.available2015-09-08T23:11:36Z-
dc.date.issued2015-
dc.identifier.citationNg, T. [吳婷]. (2015). The construction of an urban underclass : a cultural study of Chinese rural-urban migrant workers. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5558989-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/216276-
dc.description.abstractSitting on the throne of the world’s second largest economy, China’s swift turnaround has surprised both international and internal audiences. However, few have truly questioned the human costs that the country has endured to achieve such glory. The exploitation and oppression of rural-urban migrant workers are the main human costs that paved the way for the country’s wealth and prosperity. This thesis intends to differentiate from previous studies, which generally discuss the topic of rural-urban migrant workers from a socio-political point view, by exploring the matter from a cultural perspective. Through a close reading and deep analysis of literature produced by some highly talented migrant worker writers as well as by analyzing the representation of migrant workers in news reports and popular films and television series it will unveil the misrepresentations of rural-urban migrant workers in the dominant discourse. The main approaches to solving the rural problem, including the exploitation of rural-urban migrant workers, have been focused on using monetary means. However, this thesis argues that rural-urban migrant workers were exploited both physically as well as on a spiritual(i.e. cultural)level. Hence, the problem must be dealt with from a cultural approach. The representations of rural-urban migrant workers in both Chinese media and popular culture including television dramas, films and novels in general evoke a sense of pity among the audience. Due to the lack of understanding of their exploitation on a cultural level, rural-urban migrant workers’ frustrations and pains have been diminished as a pure dissatisfaction in money and living qualities which is widely recognized and pitied by the relatively well-off urban dwellers. Although this ideology of pity and concern might be welcome to a certain extent, it has led to an oversimplification in general when conceptualizing migrant workers’ issues. The rural-urban migrant workers have been passively represented as an underclass that the society very generously accepted despite their backwardness. Such representation serves two major purposes: firstly, most rural-urban migrant workers have internalized this concept which has led to their inability to discard the social stigma; secondly, the negative portrayal of such a social group or class somewhat diverts the attention of urban dwellers from their own situation, which in fact may not be much better than those migrant workers. Urban dwellers gain a sense of superiority when they take pity on rural-urban migrant workers that ironically refrains them from improving the conditions of rural-urban migrant workers. This sense of superiority has created a false consciousness among urban dwellers that the problems faced by rural-urban migrant workers are exclusive to this particular social group only. When in actuality, their problems such as inequality and lack of social protection are shared by most of the society. As a result, this thesis strongly suggests that the problems of rural-urban migrant workers should be treated as a concern among all levels in the society as it is the only way to solve the injustice in Chinese society once and for all.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.subject.lcshMigrant labor - China-
dc.titleThe construction of an urban underclass : a cultural study of Chinese rural-urban migrant workers-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb5558989-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelDoctoral-
dc.description.thesisdisciplineComparative Literature-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-

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