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New Workers’ Literature: Re-Imagining Global Subaltern Narratives

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Organizer: Xin Yang

Co-Organizer: Haomin Gong

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In the ongoing global geopolitical, economic, environmental and pandemic crises, the world is never this divided and stratified. Among a multitude of verbal, visual and aural narratives in response to such social inequality, New Workers’ Literature (Xin gongren wenxue) in China is the writings of the working class. Situated at the lowest rung of the society, Chinese laboring class speak out, in their own voice, by writing, performing and filming their own stories as insiders on the assembly lines, construction sites and sweatshops.

Who are the new workers? What is “new” about them? How are their writings similar to and different from the proletarian literature or subaltern literature (diceng wenxue) in the past?  How do they define their class identification and positionality? How do they imagine and critique the global social injustice, inequality and other crises? What role do class, gender and nation play in their literary and social (in)visibility? What kind of aesthetics do such writings bring to literary history?

This seminar seeks to address these issues by placing new workers’ literature in the global subaltern narrative. We welcome papers on a variety of topics which include but are not limited to the above-mentioned aspects.


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