East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society

April 17 Workshop [Extra Session]


East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society Presents


“From the Chinese Work Unit to the Foxconn Factory: The Disappearing Spatial Advantage”


Duanfang Lu

Associate Professor, Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning

The University of Sydney, Australia


4:30-6pm, Friday

April 17, 2015

Social Sciences 302


In 2010 a series of workplace suicides at Foxconn stirred profound concerns about Foxconn, a Taiwanese multinational electronics manufacturing company, as a global labor regime. A close look into the spatiality of Foxconn factories and associated facilities reveals some parallels between the work unit (danwei) – the socialist enterprise or institute – and the Foxconn factory. This talk offers a reading of changing urbanism and modernity in the context of China’s rapid urbanization through a comparative analysis of space and everyday life in the Foxconn factory and the work unit. Unlike existing studies on Foxconn focusing on labor issues, this study, drawing on fieldwork in Foxconn Kunshan, provides an alternative reading of Chinese urbanization by highlighting electronics factories as spaces of learning where rural migrant workers learn to be urban. It shows that such processes of urban learning are socio-spatially structured through unequal relations of resource and knowledge, which do not exist independently of the local, national and global power. With workers’ adoption of new social networking technologies in recent years, the advantage of carefully constructed spatial confines is in the process of disappearing.



Duanfang Lu is Associate Professor and Research Chair of Architectural History, Theory & Criticism in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney, Australia. She was educated at Tsinghua University, Beijing and the University of California, Berkeley, and has extensive experience in architectural and urban design. She has published widely on modern architectural and planning history. Her main publications include Remaking Chinese Urban Form (2006, 2011) and Third World Modernism (2010). She is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow in 2012–2016.

Workshop website: http://cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/eastasia/

Student coordinator: Wen Xie (wxie@uchicago.edu)

Faculty sponsors: Dali Yang, Dingxin Zhao and Zheng Michael Song


This presentation is sponsored by the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences and Center for East Asian Studies. Persons with disabilities who believe they may need assistance please contact the student coordinator in advance.

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