Drifting Peasant Workers: The Reflection of the Hukou System within the Chinese Cinematic Network

Huimin Deng


Migrating from rural areas to urban areas, Chinese farmers become part of the urban working class. The migration have attracted both urban cinema and independent documentary to represent the integration of farmers into urban space. However, whether the figures of peasant workers in urban areas can be simply treated as the urban working class is problematic. Here I introduce the theories of textuality and intertextuality to explore the audiovisual representation of Chinese migrant workers within Chinese urban cinema and Chinese independent documentary at the turn of the 21st century, searching for the communal sign representation and social signification of peasant images within urban context. As a result, peasant workers are depicted as drifters between urban areas and rural areas because they are marginalized by local workers, urban elites, and urban governors due to the household registration system. Their identity, cultural manifestation, and social status are shaped by the rural-urban mediation, if not conflict.

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