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The makings of the Subaltern subjects: embodiment, contradictory consciousness and re-hegemonization of the Diaosi in China

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>03/2017
Issue number2
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)298-312
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date28/07/16
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This article examines the emergence since 2011 of the ‘Diaosi’ (loser) identity among second-generation migrant workers in China. This subjective identification of a new social category with little hope can be contrasted with the hopeful policy constructions of a strong China eager to promote the civilizing ‘suzhi’ (population quality) of its population nationally and internationally. Yet, as this article shows, in four steps, these phenomena are intertwined. First, it locates the emergence of this ‘Diaosi’ subject in the global and national dialectics of hope in China since the global financial crisis. Second, drawing on neo-Foucauldian and neo-Gramscian scholarship, Diaosi marginality is related to the interactions among global capitalist production, the socialist market economy, continuous state domination via a household registration system (hukou), and the civilising discourse of ‘suzhi’. Third, it shows how the Diaosi embody their multiplex loser identity and marginality affectively and expressively in their everyday demeanour. Fourth, it examines recent efforts by state/corporate capital and the party-state to re-make and re-hegemonize Diaosi life in the name of consumption, civility, and social stability. The article ends with some neo-Gramscian remarks on the complexities and contradictory consciousness of marginal social categories, such as the Diaosi, and their openness to passive revolution and (re-) hegemonization.