Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

This chapter uses Liu Zhenyun’s 2007 novel Wo jiao Liu Zhenyun [I Am Liu Yuejin] to reflect on shifting understandings of society and identity in contemporary China. The novel follows a migrant worker in contemporary Beijing, who finds himself caught up in a complicated set of overlapping scams that involve an array of other migrant workers, as well as some of the city’s sociopolitical elite. I argue that the work’s migrant workers shuttle back and forth not only between different geographical locations, but also between different sociopolitical conceptions of individual identity. Drawing on psychoanalytic theories of trauma, economic understandings of debt, and philosophical models of denotation and reference, I contend that contemporary Chinese society is shaped by the mutual imbrication of two distinct models of social organization and information management implicit in the traditional Maoist hukou model and the contemporary neoliberal economy, respectively. The novel’s migrant workers illustrate both the far-reaching ramifications of each of these socioeconomic models, as well as their respective limitations.

This content is only available as PDF.
You do not currently have access to this chapter.
Don't already have an account? Register
Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal