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Labour non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the citizenship challenge
Małgorzata Jakimów

Drawing on existing studies of migrant workers and civil society in China, the introduction examines the relevance of current theoretical debates in the social sciences and in Chinese studies to the migrant workers’ social, spatial and political exclusion, and looks for a new framework which can account for the phenomena observed during the fieldwork carried out by the author. This chapter presents the empirical background, the theoretical framework of the book, the methodological approach taken and the contribution the book makes in the field of citizenship, civil society and labour movement studies.

in China’s citizenship challenge
Małgorzata Jakimów

This chapter demonstrates that NGOs’ demands revolving around labour cannot be divorced from wider citizenship rights, such as the right to voice, assembly, striking, recognition, representation and political participation. It does so by presenting three further acts: ‘educating beyond rights’, ‘advocating and petitioning’ and ‘claiming rights’ (to independent labour representation, collective bargaining and strikes). These acts are not performed through state-defined legal channels, and instead seek to transform the law itself. The chapter argues that while the activism of NGOs performed around labour affects the citizenship structure in a variegated way, some NGOs recognise citizenship transformation as a precondition to successfully tackling labour issues in China.

in China’s citizenship challenge
A genealogical enquiry
Małgorzata Jakimów

In a largely chronological manner, this chapter presents a history of the mutual co-constitution of the citizenship regime and discourse. It argues that the current formulation of citizenship in China is founded not only on the formal legislative aspect of the hukou system, but also on the underlying citizenship discourse, which stems from the processes of modernisation, urbanisation and nationalism, underlined by the new economic divisions created by market reforms. The chapter traces genealogies of citizenship in China in order to reveal how it has been constructed through the mechanism of the spatio-temporal ‘othering’ of the rural/migrant worker population. It then presents the attempts by central and local governments to reform the hukou system, arguing that despite much debate about reform of the system since 2003, and particularly since 2014, not enough has been done to truly transform the citizenship status of migrant workers in China. It also discusses the state-prescribed citizenship practices, which are enforced both through the law and through public campaigns and school education, and reflects on what type of citizen they promote. The final section of the chapter sets out how these various historical and contemporary discourses have been entangled in local China, in the form of the municipal authorities’ policies and narratives towards migrant workers in Shenzhen, Beijing and Hangzhou, the main fieldwork sites.

in China’s citizenship challenge
Małgorzata Jakimów

This chapter discusses how NGOs challenge the mainstream citizenship discourse and policies in relation to the first ‘site’ of citizenship contestation: civic organising. It focuses, in particular, on instances when the act of ‘networking’ transforms the wider citizenship structure. As an ‘act of citizenship’, networking is shaped by the limitations to civil and political rights of citizenship in China, and this chapter illustrates how networking can push for new practices of activist citizenship, such as volunteerism and inter-NGO networking. Through the act of networking, NGOs challenge the limitations of the hostile environment for inter-organisational networking and assembly in China, redrafting what is regarded as ‘acceptable’ for civic interactions. The chapter reflects on the tremendous obstacles due to the constrictions of political space and the transformation in the state’s approach to foreign funding under Xi Jinping, and their consequences for NGOs’ survival.

in China’s citizenship challenge
Małgorzata Jakimów

This chapter discusses how NGOs challenge the official citizenship discourse and policy in relation to the first ‘site’ of citizenship contestation: civic organising. It focuses, in particular, on instances when acts of ‘organising’ transform the wider citizenship structure. As an ‘act of citizenship’, organising is shaped by the limitations to civil and political rights of citizenship in China. The chapter illustrates how the act of organising, which is often undertaken under many financial, political and legal constraints, allows migrant workers who set up NGOs to manifest their resolve to take action over the circumstances in which they live. By doing so, they assert the right to voice, which they are not normally granted in the public space, and the right to organise, negotiating the role and function of citizen-formed organisations in China, thereby reshaping citizenship practices.

in China’s citizenship challenge
Małgorzata Jakimów

This chapter analyses two acts, ‘defending rights’ and ‘educating in legal rights’, which utilise state-designated channels (in this case, labour laws), and therefore do not challenge the state directly. The chapter demonstrates the special role which labour rights play in negotiation of citizenship in China. Unlike aspirational kinds of rights, such as the right to the city or the right to self-organise, labour rights are usually framed as already existing ‘legal rights’ (hefa quanyi), which simply need to be ‘respected’, and, until recently, this made activism around them somehow less contentious. The chapter reflects critically on when ‘defending rights’ and ‘educating in legal rights’ can have a transformative effect on citizenship and when they help to maintain the status quo, by comparing cases when they help to produce active and informed citizens, and when they do not.

in China’s citizenship challenge
Marcos P. Dias

Chapter 4 provides a historical account of aesthetic machines, with a focus on performance and the use of technology, from ancient Greek theatre’s use of the device of the deus ex machina to contemporary theatre and its use of digital props. It discusses the critique of inauthenticity in art that makes use of machine-components and the associated argument that machines overshadow the human performer. To counter this, it is argued that we need to acknowledge the artistic relevance of human-machine hybrids to move beyond human-centric and technocentric arguments. The importance of twentieth-century avant-garde art movements as influential references for contemporary digital performance is stated, with references to Futurism and the Agit-Theatre of Attractions. This is followed by a description of cinematic machines, with a particular focus on Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera and its similarities to A Machine To See With. The post-1960s performative turn is described as a key event in performance art through the dissolution of the barrier between stage and audience and through the ability to blur art and life. This is illustrated through some of its key movements, including Neo-Concretism, Situationism, Fluxus and Happening. The assemblage of aesthetic machines and the digital paradigm is illustrated through the Cybernetic Serendipity event, which foregrounded the artistic potential of the computer’s procedural logic as a non-human actant. Finally, the paradigm of the machine as an autonomous artist is discussed through events such as the use of artificial intelligence agents in the generation of art.

in The machinic city
Abstract only
Marcos P. Dias

The conclusion addresses the initial proposition of the book: as we walk through the city, we are subject to an embodied experience that is increasingly mediated by machines, and where human and machine hybrids produce new modes of subjectivity. It emphasises the role of performance art to bring us on a reflective journey where artistic narrative is assembled with the urban fabric and digital technologies, generating unexpected and meaningful outcomes while also instigating us to think about the consequences of our digitally mediated lives. It also emphasises the role of performance art towards acknowledging dissensus as a key outcome through the process of translation of the artistic narrative by each individual participant. The importance of assembling efficient and not-so-efficient machines and acknowledging the multiple modes of subjectivity emerging from human and machine hybrids is emphasised as a means of countering dystopian narratives of technology applied to urban living.

in The machinic city
Abstract only
Marcos P. Dias

Chapter 6 examines the role of performance art to speculate on future urban living. Blast Theory’s app-based project Karen is discussed as an example of how performance art adapts to emerging technologies. This is followed by an account of Dante or Die’s User Not Found, as an example of a participatory performance that examines the future consequences of a contemporary technology (social media) while using this technology as a key component to support the narrative; the participants are provided with mobile phones preloaded with fictional social media apps. Blast Theory’s 2097: We Made Ourselves Over is discussed as an example of a performance art project that conceptualises the future of city living through multiple outputs: live performance, film screenings and a downloadable app, which extend the duration and reach of the performance. The work of architect Liam Young is discussed as an example of speculating on the future of urban living through an ‘exaggerated present’, where the future of contemporary developments – such as smart cities built from scratch – is teased out from the current status of these developments and their interactive modes. Young emphasises the increasing autonomy granted to the technologies that mediate urban life and reflects on its potential outcomes. China’s Social Credit System project is analysed as an example of this outcome, while the importance of performance art is emphasised as a counterpoint to prescriptive future narratives that are based on the model of the machine-city.

in The machinic city
Abstract only
Marcos P. Dias

The introduction describes the concept of the machine-city as representative of the ideal of an efficient city controlled by technical machines. It argues for the importance of aesthetic machines to generate spaces of deliberation on our role as participants in the contemporary mediated city. It provides an example of an aesthetic machine in the form of a performative art intervention in urban space – Graffiti Research Lab’s Laser Bombing – to symbolise the role of media, performance and participation as key factors in how we interact with urban space. Furthermore, it conceptualises the machinic city as a model that represents the current state of urban affairs and the relational nature of the actants that constitute it, comparing it against the vision of the machine-city based on the uncritical acceptance of the effects of technical machines on the city and on social interactions. The concept of the aesthetic machine is briefly discussed by referring to Guattari’s key argument that the aesthetic paradigm is capable of traversing other ‘Universes of value’ and enabling emerging modes of subjectivity. This is followed by a brief outline of the chapter structure of the book.

in The machinic city