China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This panel examines how state-led urbanization in Tibet is used as a technique of governance that aims to bring about the wholesale social restructuring of Tibet in order to achieve its integration into the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and ensure regime stability. Informed by new theoretical approaches to what Brenner (2013) calls “concentrated urbanization” and “extended urbanization,” we raise new questions about what a city is and does, and what urbanization means to Tibetans in western China. Our approach follows Lefebvre (2003) in viewing urbanization as a totalizing revolution, and also Tomba (2017) in focusing on urbanization as a dynamic process, rather than the city as a cartographic site.
Rather than restricting the conversation to questions of the ‘adaptation’ of Tibetans to city life, we consider issues such as: how land classification and reclassification affects settlement patterns; practices of dispossession that lead to the production of rural abandonment and the creation of wilderness; the distribution of cities in ordered, integrated landscapes; how economic corridors, city clusters and mega infrastructure projects reorder and reinscribe social categories; the stratification of urban spaces by differentials of inequality like race, class, and language; the stratification of broader spatial scales via the ranking of cities and populations based on measures of “quality”; the translocal practices of urban residents and their material, cultural, economic, and social consequences, and so on.