“They Must Be Represented”: (Re)producing Social Hierarchies amongst Migrant Workers in Southern China

An outbreak of ethnic violence between Han and Uyghur migrant workers in Guangdong province in 2009 was a turning point for the country, as ethnic tensions became a tangible issue beyond the borders of peripheral regions. While many studies have covered ethnic conflicts in territories inhabited by ethnic minorities, much less is known about the impact of ethnicity as a social differentiator amongst migrant workers in China’s main industrial centres. This project assesses the dynamics of solidarity and exclusion that underlie social stratification and stifle the formation of an interethnic working-class identity amongst migrant labourers in the industrial and trade centre Shenzhen. Furthermore, it addresses the mechanisms through which migrant workers differentiate themselves or are discriminated against, and the effects on labour solidarity and the politics of exploitation.

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