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Tales of Hope, Tastes of BitternessChinese Road Builders in Ethiopia$
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Miriam Driessen

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9789888528042

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888528042.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM HONG KONG SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.hongkong.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Hong Kong University Press, 2022. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in HKSO for personal use.date: 17 May 2022

Fashioning Ethiopian Laborers

Fashioning Ethiopian Laborers

(p.82) 4 Fashioning Ethiopian Laborers
Tales of Hope, Tastes of Bitterness

Miriam Driessen

Hong Kong University Press

Whereas Chinese road builders are modest about improving their own lives, they are confident about their ability to transform the lives of Ethiopian others. This chapter discusses Chinese management’s attempts to fashion young Ethiopian men into industrious laborers, modeling them on the self-sacrificing worker subject that helped realize China’s economic miracle throughout the 1990s and 2000s. What Ethiopian laborers lack, in Chinese managers’ eyes, is a sense of urgency and a drive to develop the self. Yet their attempts to fashion Ethiopians into committed laborers are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, management seeks to enhance the productivity of the local workforce and speed up the building works. On the other hand, they have a fundamental interest in upholding the image of the Ethiopian worker as indolent, for it confirms Chinese moral superiority and justifies wage differentials and inequalities in employment security.

Keywords:   Labor, peasant worker, discipline, hard work, sacrifice, self-development

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