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Accepted Paper:

Live Broadcasting (Zhibo): Spectacle, Speculation, and Migrant Labor in Guangzhou’s Fast Fashion Industry  
Nellie Chu (Duke Kunshan University)

Paper short abstract:

My paper analyzes the labor of rural migrants in the fast fashion e-commerce in Guangzhou, China. It presents ethnographic observations on internet “influencers” who sell low-cost clothing on social media.

Paper long abstract:

My paper analyzes the labor of rural migrants in the world of fast fashion e-commerce in Guangzhou, China. It presents preliminary ethnographic material on internet “influencers” who sell low-cost clothing on social media within the city’s wholesale markets, a practice known as “live broadcasting” or zhibo. Drawing on the concepts of fast fashion, this paper reflects on the material and embodied experiences of employment and labor as these migrant influencers create spectacles of consumerist urgency and desire through their scripts and performances; some that are impromptu and some that are rehearsed. I argue that the digital landscapes created by algorithms, despite their seemingly immaterial and ephemeral qualities, require the material and concrete aspects of bodily labor in order to properly function within the sphere of e-commerce. More specifically, the magical and spectral-like characteristics of the algorithm, much like the qualities of the fast fashion industry, require cultural work of bodily performance in order to exist at all. In effect, the work of zhibo compels us to revisit and to reassess our fundamental assumptions of labor, specifically waged and non-waged work, in light of the unprecedented rise of temporary work, migrant entrepreneurship, and e-commerce in urban China.

I take this case study as a point of departure to reflect on the intersection between performance, knowledge, and affect in the production of digital ethnography, which remains grounded in embodied

Panel P036
Digital ethnography and experiences from the Global South
  Session 2