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Lecture | China Seminar

Misfit: The poetry of Xu Lizhi

Date
28 February 2018
Time
Series
China Seminar
Address
Lipsius Building
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden
Room
235
The late poet Xu Lizhi

Battlers poetry 打工诗歌 is writing by members of the Chinese precariat, specifically the underclass of domestic migrants who have flocked from the countryside to the cities in the hundreds of millions since the 1980s. The hardships and the social injustice of migrant worker life are among its most prominent themes: dehumanizing labor conditions, feelings of displacement, nostalgia, and existential alienation, a vulnerable status as non-citizens without the coveted urban household registration and steady work, and so on. Since the 2000s, the web and social media have given it tremendous exposure, trickling beyond China’s borders in recent years.

So what kind of writing is this, and what does it do? The poetry of Xu Lizhi 许立志, who has been a figurehead of the genre ever since his suicide in 2014, offers powerful material for tackling these questions—which have often been framed in an easy opposition of social significance (high) and literary value (low) that might just not be the whole story.

Bio: Maghiel van Crevel is professor of Chinese at Leiden University, and the author, editor, and translator of a dozen books. He has recently published “Walk on the Wild Side: Snapshots of the Chinese Poetry Scene,” a long essay inspired by fieldwork in China in 2016-2017.

China Seminar Series

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