Adventure, imagination and expecting uncertainty: young migrant workers and their career trajectories in post-Mao China
(National Tsing Hua University)
Paper short abstract:
Migration could induce countless imaginations, bringing unknowns, uncertainties, but also new opportunities.Through analysing the life stories of migrant workers in an electronic factory in Shenzhen, I demonstrate people perceive uncertainty differently according to their class positions.
Paper long abstract:
Migration could induce countless imaginations, bringing unknowns, uncertainties, but also new possibilities. Vacations, travels, business trips, immigration, all make people leave the familiar fields and go into different contexts. Different migration opens different imagination. For social actors with insufficient information, the decision to migrate is often not from rational calculations, but made on basis of imaginations. Therefore, irrational, emotional, moral and subjective dimensions often should be taken into account. Unknown and uncertainties could be crises, but also could be opportunities. Uncertainty could be perceived as dangerous, but could be also the way to escape from tedious current situation. Taking these into account, the class formation, which is dominated by proletarianization paradigm and pay large attention to the structure, material arrangements and abstract mechanism, might need to be revised. This article will re-exam class formation of migrant workers in post-Mao China by taking their imaginations into account. Through analysing the life stories of four Chinese migrant workers and one Taiwanese migrant co-worker in an electronic factory in Shenzhen, I demonstrate people perceive uncertainty differently according to their class positions and imaginations. When actualizing their imagined future, the migrant workers make an effort to see through the structure and actively create opportunities by seeing and establishing new connections of the existing resources, which makes the "revolution without revolutionaries" happen constantly in everyday life. Therefore, I argue when studying class formation and social inequality, we should not only discuss agency, but also imagination.
New geographies and imaginaries of work in the Global South