China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Contained Fluidity: Bulldozer Urbanism and its Everyday Politics in Shanghai

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Jacaranda I, First Floor

Chinese cities are often admired for their “relative lack of slum” despite massive internal migration and rapid urbanization, as compared to other cities such as Mumbai in India and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. However, China’s urban transformation has been fraught with forced relocation and violent eviction. Among millions of Chinese on the lower rung of society who suffer from forced demolition and relocation, rural-to-urban migrant workers are particularly vulnerable due to the resilient socialist land tenure and hukou (residential registration) system. They have to relocate within short notice without any compensation, unlike local peers who are at least entitled to monetary compensation and/or housing replacement. Their precarious housing conditions deserve more exploration both empirically and theoretically. This paper focuses on the emerging practice of “container housing” among rural-to-urban migrant workers in Shanghai today. In response to the city’s rapid urban expansion and tightened population control, migrant bosses purchase and modify containers into rental units for fellow migrants seeking cheap and mobile housing alternatives. Based on ethnographic research in the summers between 2015 and 2017, this paper examines the social production and subjective experiences of container housing. It explores how the agency of migrants in adapting to the peri-urban space is deeply embedded in the structures of economic, social, and political inequality in late-socialist China. By doing so, this paper elaborates on the processes and everyday politics of “bulldozer urbanism” essential to China’s development. It shows how stratified citizenship is mediated and reinforced by spatial reconfiguration. 

Minhua Ling

Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

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3 - Contained Fluidity: Bulldozer Urbanism and its Everyday Politics in Shanghai



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