Issue 18.4, November 2003

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Essay Excerpt

In the November 2003 issue of Cultural Anthropology Pun Ngai writes of dagongmei, women migrant laborers from China’s countryside, situated at the intersection of production and consumption in the circuit of global capital. “Subsumption or Consumption? The Phantom of Consumer Revolution in “Globalizing” China” examines how the dagongmei figures as both a desired producer and a desiring consumer, asking whether the ceaseless cycle of capitalism can bolster a democratic social space or whether it furthers socioeconomic inequity. The productivist logic of Maoist China serves as a foundation for a consumer revolution, and Pun uses the “golden travel holidays” and the Special Economic Zone of Shenzhen to explore how the state has engineered a new cultural economy. Pun argues that the circuit of global capital is less a process of individualizing than of binding dagongmei into a “collectivity through their shared dreams and desires to become a new kind of subject,” a process taking hold in China and other postsocialist countries.

From "Subsumption or Consumption? The Phantom of Consumer Revolution in "Globalizing China" by Pun Ngai