Amateur photography as self-ethnography: China's rural migrant workers and the question of digital-political literacy

University of Queensland
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Media International Australia, 2012, 145 pp. 135 - 144
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In recent decades, some distinctive cultural practices have emerged from Chinas rural migrant worker community. A small but growing number of rural migrant workers are consciously using the camera on their mobile phones to engage in varying levels of political and cultural activism. This article is concerned with the macro-level question of digital literacy and political consciousness among Chinas rural migrant working class, but it pursues this question through a close-up account of some individual rural migrants initial encounters and subsequent experiences with the camera. By examining their cultural activist practices, and adopting a mode of inquiry most often used in visual anthropology, the article discusses issues of class consciousness and digital literacy. Drawing on sustained interaction with a dozen migrant activists in Beijing from 2009 to 2011, it provides a preliminary evaluation of the potential of digital media to construct collective self-ethnography, as well as its capacity to effect political socialisation and social change.
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