Lamb Buddha’s Migrant Workers: Self-Assertion on China’s Urban Fringe

Michael Brian Griffiths


This paper presents an analysis of the everyday practices of individuality among the migrant workers with whom I worked at “Lamb Buddha”, a hotpot restaurant in Anshan City, Liaoning Province, during the summer of 2007. The majority of the data comes from four young men, meaning that the analysis complements extant studies of Chinese female migrant workers by allowing male-gendered inflections of discourse prominence. The paper examines the internal structure of “symbolic boundaries” drawn and managed in judgements, positioning statements, and so forth, attempting to regress the modalities by which these migrants assert themselves, thus showing how individuality arises from a discursive environment structured by relation to similar peers and distinctly different others.

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