Accepted Paper:

Life Moves On: the Reproduction of Social Space of Workers in a Textile Town in Xi'an, China  


Xiao Luo (Leiden University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines what happens to workers after the bankruptcy of the state-owned factory in a textile town in Xi'an, China. It shows how workers use the strategies to reproduce the social space when they working in the new workplace, with the practice for negotiation, adaption, and reciprocity.

Paper long abstract:

After the reform of state-owned enterprise in the late 20th century in China, lots of workers were laid-off as the factories had been closed down due to bankruptcy. The workers in a textile town in Xi'an did not escape from the fate of being laid off since 2008. But life did not stop at that moment. Life has to move on. Based on the one-year fieldwork, I observed that although these workers are no longer working in the factory, their working and living space is not disintegrated nor separated by an obvious barrier from the previous memory and working experience; rather, it becomes more various and complex by means of that the structure of the space is reconfigured and extended. Specifically, since the bankruptcy, workers have found other jobs in different places, which extend their original space of daily life and social activities. It is not just a simple movement, because it changes the workplaces, tasks and responsibilities, and more importantly, it cultivates the workers' self-consciousness of cultural reproduction. Moving to a new workplace is a kind of spatial extension, which shows not only the extension of physical work surroundings, the way and time of commuting and the various people and difficulties they have to deal with, but also the extension of their strategies such as negotiation, adaption and reciprocity to strengthen their sense of security and dignity. Such strategies intertwine with the memory, habitus and social networks that formed from previous experience in the factory.

Panel Econ01
Remembering the factory: industrial pasts and presents