Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Since China’s 1978 reforms, involved in the rapid urbanization, the ancient neighborhoods in heart of Beijing have experienced dramatic changes in social and spatial terms. Bordering the Forbidden City, Nanluoguxiang is one such inner city neighborhood. Comprised of many hutong (lanes) and siheyuan (courtyards), Nanluoguxiang neighborhood was declared a municipal heritage sector in 1990. Since then, specific heritage policies focused on the restitution of historical architectures, the growth of tourism and urban renewal programs have been strongly endorsed by the municipal government and have brought about rapid transformation in the neighborhood. Drawing upon 11 months of ethnographic fieldwork including participant observation and conversational interviews, using the conceptual entry points of resistance and agency, I reveal a variety of tactics that permanent residents living in Nanluoguxiang neighborhood employ to cope with the restructuring of local spaces driven by State. In particularly, their resistance and struggle for negotiating livelihoods pass through claiming and rebuilding a collective local identity based on a creative authenticity rooted in their nostalgia for the good old days. On the one hand, they performed this rebuilt identity in an instrumentalist way to gain access to trade space and consolidate social networks. On the other hand, they incorporated in the identity building the standardized image of local culture proposed by State’s heritage policy and promoted by tourism. Finally, their awareness of individuality has grown up in their perpetual negotiations with the State.