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03 FEB 2021 (WED) 16:00-17:30

流眾之城:深圳“三和大神”日結工的叛逆與困境A City of the Precariat: Struggles and Predicament of Dayworkers in Shenzhen, China


ZOOM meeting ID: 942 1692 2349

Password: 563701

All are welcome!


Dr Gengzhi Huang Associate Professor, School of Geography and Planning, Sun Yat-sen University

Dr. Gengzhi Huang is an Associate Professor of Human Geography in Sun Yat-sen University, China. His research focuses on urban informalities, informal employment, migrant workers and labor geographies. Recently, his is interested in labor’s social upgrading and informal workers’ social integration in China. He is currently the principal investigator of the research program Diversity and Local Embeddedness of Worker Agency in Globalizing China supported by the National Science Foundation of China. He has published his research articles in both domestic and international journals, including Antipode, Geoforum, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Urban Studies, Urban Geography, and Cities. His research on urban street vending and informal employment in China has received media attention and reported by Guangzhou Daily, Pengpai News, Sixth Tone, Zhihu Daily, and China Thinktanks affiliated to Development Research of The State Council of China.


Labor geographers continue to explore labor’s spatial fix using the concept of agency, to understand workers’ efforts to improve their relative position in production and their roles in reshaping economic landscapes. However, there is a danger of overestimating the degree to which workers can make their own spatial fixes. In this speak, I shift the attention to struggling practices of precarious migrant workers by focusing on dayworkers in Sanhe labor market located in an industrial zone, Shenzhen, China. I first explain precarious workers (or the precariat) in the context of (re)commercialization of labor in the contemporary world and in China, and then provide an interpretation of the nature and consequence of dayworkers’ agency in challenging the relation of production. I argue that although migrant workers regain the control of time and their labor forces to some extent by engaging in daywork practices, they were trapped in a new regime of labor control. A place that meets the material need of labor reproduction of dayworkers at a lower-cost level is produced around the Sanhe labor market. However, this place simultaneously plays a role of labor control for flexible accumulation of capital in globalization. This contradictory consequence of workers’ struggles brings my argument that worker agency to resisting the commercialization of labor might in fact reproduce that process. I conclude the speak by opening questions on the future of precarious migrant workers in cities.

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