Luka Lei Zhang is a PhD candidate in English at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Currently, she is visiting Malmö University and studying with Prof. Magnus Nilsson.

Abstract

In the recent two decades, several museums have been established exclusively for migrant workers in China. This article provides a comparative study of two types of these museums. Firstly, there are state-run and sponsored museums, such as the Museum of Peasant-Workers in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, founded in 2012. It displays the history of migrant workers in Guangdong Province by exhibiting around 5000 items, including workers’ personal belongings, tools, official documents etc. Such a museum, I argue, serves the "branding" of the local government by celebrating official achievements. By branding workers, the museum establishes a static cultural space for showcasing workers and fetishizing labor. A different type of museum exists in a small village near Beijing. Here, the Migrant Workers Culture and Art Museum has been opened in 2010 and run by migrant workers themselves. It presents an alternative way of exhibiting and representing workers and their culture. The museum not only displays certain work items. It also holds interactive cultural events, such as workers’ writing workshops, workers’ musical performances, and so on. In this article, I will propose to view this museum as an example of a working-class "museum from below," examine its cultural significance, and discuss difficulties it faces.

The seminar will be held in English.

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