From Erasure to Engagement: Visual arts and migrant workers in contemporary China

Mirra, Federica (2024) From Erasure to Engagement: Visual arts and migrant workers in contemporary China. Third Text, 37 (4). pp. 487-507. ISSN 0952-8822

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Since 1978, Mainland China has transformed cities into attractive branding engines to satisfy political and economic agendas at an unprecedented speed and scale. However, what is often concealed is that China’s urban growth has been achieved thanks to the invaluable efforts of migrant workers. Treated as undesirable urban aspects and erased from the city due to their rural origins and low education, migrants’ labour has been crucial to build new cities and infrastructure. To shed light on these social dynamics, I investigate the representation of migrant workers through visual arts. Informed by semi-structured interviews with contemporary artists and visual analysis, this article offers an insight into the official narrative and the socio-spatial inequalities brought upon by urbanisation. Lastly, it contributes to the contemporary visual art discourse, outlining different representational and creative strategies from erasure to socially engaged works which evoke migrant workers’ social and transformative potential.

Item Type: Article
Identification Number:
31 July 2023Accepted
19 January 2024Published Online
Uncontrolled Keywords: visual arts, China, twenty-first century, urban studies, migrant workers, Chinese society, harmonious society, erasure, China dream
Subjects: CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-01 - creative arts and design > CAH25-01-02 - art
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Birmingham School of Art
Depositing User: Gemma Tonks
Date Deposited: 24 Oct 2023 14:44
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2024 16:42

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