Over the past few years, China's cultural landscape has seen the emergence of several authors from among its migrant laborers, or “new workers.” Fan Yusu and Xu Lizhi are the most representative. Their literary production, which draws on their personal experiences and tells their workplace stories, is an artistic configuration entirely different from both mass culture and high literature. This article analyzes the significance of this new worker literature from three perspectives. First, since the 1990s, new workers have been using the traditional medium of literature to speak with their own voices, which is particularly remarkable in the age of the internet. Second, workers’ culture spaces like the Picun Literature Group, from which Fan Yusu emerged, not only support ordinary laborers’ active interest in writing but also represent a specific cultural practice that has come into being in the post-Mao era. Third, the fact that a large number of new worker writers are “borrowing” from the language and style of 1980s literature generates a productive relation between the critical spirit of that literature and the alienating conditions under which the new workers labor. Although seen as marginal by many, new worker literature is of great cultural value for contemporary China.

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