Biopolitics, occupational health and state power : the marginalization of sick workers in China

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journal

5 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)808-826
Journal / PublicationChina Quarterly
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014


This article endeavours to address the experience of Chinese workers with occupational disease as an instantiation of Agamben' s notion of homo sacer - the ultimate biopolitical subject whose life is located outside the "normal" political, economic and cultural practices and, hence, is rendered largely silent and unintelligible in the public realm. It argues that the victimization of the occupationally sick worker has become almost a blind spot at the centre of governmentality insofar as the specific set of social regulations and power relations has created a "double ambivalence" among the victims who are constantly and disturbingly caught in between the public and private, the productive and unproductive, and the culturally normative and the culturally deviant. Such experiences of marginality contribute to the understanding of the biopolitical nature of contemporary Chinese state power, which adopts extensive "stability maintenance" (weiwen) measures to reduce resisters to a state of "bare life" susceptible to the rule of exception.
本文致力於探討中國職業病患者的經歷, 為阿甘本 (Agamben) 關於 “神聖之人” (homo sacer) 的論述提供了一個實例: 作為最典型的生物政治個體, “神聖之人” 被排斥在常規的政治、經濟和文化活動之外, 幾乎完全從公共領域消失。作者認為, 職業病患者的遭遇是中國政府治理核心之中的一大盲點, 即一套特定的社會規範和權利關係, 使職業病患者陷入共公與私人、有勞力與無勞力、順應與違背文化規範的 “雙重矛盾” 之中, 受到持續不斷的傷害。研究職業病患者的邊緣化有助於理解當代中國國家權力在生物政治意義上的本質, 即採取多種 “維穩” 手段, 使對抗者成為 “赤裸生命” (bare life), 淪為例外規則的受害者。

Research Area(s)

  • Biopolitics, Chinese workers, Homo sacer, Occupational disease, Rule of exception, Stability maintenance, State power, 生物政治学, “神圣之人” (homo sacer), 国家权力, 维稳, 例外规则, 职业病