This article can be found in the Special Issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs regarding Rural Migrants in Transitional Chinese Cities: Marginality, Agency, and Social Justice.
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As China accelerates its urbanization progress, the once homogenous peasant worker group has now become more diversified with the rise of a new generation of peasant workers (NGPWs). Whereas previous literature is preoccupied with making intergenerational comparisons or recounting their marginality, how they become marginalized in the first place continues to be an on-topic area of research. Referring to theories of cultural reproduction and social stigmatization, this study adds to the body of literature by underscoring the often-neglected cultural dimension of marginality. We introduce a temporal dimension in examining NGPWs’ cultural marginality by first tracing back to their pre-urban education process and then unraveling the stigmatization of their cultural identity in cities. Methodologically, it incorporates macro-institutional and micro-individual perspectives, based on both qualitative and quantitative data. We argue that NGPWs’ inferior position in the urban social hierarchy is to a great extent determined by their marginalized cultural capital, which is molded by both institutional education and family education. After NGPWs enter the urban labor market, their identity is further stigmatized by the hegemonic symbol producers. Cultural reproduction is essentially a “group-making” process leading to the “mass production” of NGPWs and class consolidation, and the hegemonic urban discourse system enforces a symbolic construction of their stigmatized cultural identity.