The Poetics of Productivity

Lisa Rofel

in Other Modernities

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 1999 | ISBN: 9780520210783
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520919860 | DOI:
The Poetics of Productivity

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This chapter traces how the post-Mao pursuit of modernity, known as “economic reform,” constructs mobile discourses of dominance in which national priorities for development normalize workers even as they cast workers to the side of history. Rather than accepting as transparent the identities of workers, one must ask how they are culturally produced, embraced, performed, challenged, and denied. The first section of the chapter examines discourse on the recent socialist past and how it represents workers as embodying that past. The second section addresses new regimes of productivity that operate through the cool violence of statistics, turning on doubled practices of individuation and differentiation. The third section tells a story about an incident between a silk inspection worker and her supervisor at Zhenfu that illuminates the cultural peripheries of history where workers negotiate the disjunctures in projects of modernity in the post-Mao era.

Keywords: post-Mao era; China; modernity; worker identity; socialist era

Chapter.  11823 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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