Building China: The Rise of Informal Work and Spatial Politics

Wednesday, February 25, 2015
12:30 - 2:00pm
UCLA Public Affairs| Luskin Faculty Lounge 5391

Presented by: Sarah Swider | Wayne State, Sociology

                          Ching Kwan Lee | UCLA, Sociology



About the Talk:

Urbanization has been a cornerstone of China's modernization project and an important driver of economic growth.  As a result, over 50 percent of China’s billion people are now living in urban areas, concentrated in the 160 cities with a population over one million. Based on extensive ethnographic field research, this paper examines the lives and work of informal migrant construction workers as they are spatially, socially, and economically integrated into China’s cities. The study makes three main contributions concerning urban informal work in China. First, it documents the different forms of informal work and helps us make sense of the diversity of informal precarious work more generally. Second, it expands our understanding of China’s emerging labor regime that is central to labor control, intimately related to the urbanization process, and ultimately linked to China’s overall economic success. Finally, it shows how these migrants struggle against the disciplining process, contest exploitation and protest in unique ways.



About the Speaker:


Sarah Swider


Sarah Swider is an assistant professor of sociology at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She received her PhD in sociology from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research focuses on informal labor, labor organizing, global inequality and migration.  She has researched and published articles on informal workers, including domestic workers in Hong Kong and street vendors and construction workers in China.  Her current research focuses on informal workers in Asia, and more recently informal workers in Detroit, MI. Recent research has appeared in Global Feminism: Women’s Transnational Activism, Organizing, and Human Rights, 2006, (NYU Press); From Iron Rice Bowl to Informalization, 2011 (Cornell University Press), Critical Sociology.  Her book, Building China: The Rise of Informal Work and Spatial Politics, is forthcoming from Cornell University Press.

Ching Kwan Lee

Ching Kwan Lee is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles. She obtained her PhD in Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and taught at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and University of Michigan before moving to UCLA. She is a former member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton (2006-7) and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (2003-4). Her publications have focused on labor, social activism, political sociology and development in China and the Global South.

Lee is author of Against the Law: Labor Protests in China's Rustbelt and Sunbelt (2007), winner of the American Sociological Association’s Sociology of Labor Book Award in 2008 and Gender and the South China Miracle: Two Worlds of Factory Women (1998), co-winner of the Best Book Award given by the Asia and Asian American Section of the American Sociological Association in 1999.



This event is presented by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) and cosponsored by UCLA Center for Chinese Studies