AAG 2017: China as Methods

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Paper sessions in 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers (Boston, MA, 5-9 April 2017)

 

Organisers

Yimin Zhao (The London School of Economics and Political Science); Yueming Zhang (University of Birmingham); Yang Yang (University of Colorado – Boulder)

Sponsorship

Asian Geography Specialty Group, China Specialty Group, Cultural Geography Specialty Group, Urban Geography Specialty Group

Session introduction

In 1989, Mizoguchi Yuzo published China as Method and called for reversing Eurocentric theory and epistemological framework (Mizoguchi 2011 [1989]). For Mizoguchi, the end of conceiving China “should be the ‘study of China’ that transcends China” (cf. Chen 2010, 252). In other words, China is a method when understanding the world is the purpose – and in this multiplied “world”, as Chen Kuan-Hsing reminds us (ibid., 253), both China and Europe are elements. It is here that we can see some affinities between Mizoguchi’s position and recently rising comparative urbanism to study the world of cities (Robinson, 2006).

Mizoguchi’s proposition has methodological significances for it helps replace the vertical principle of history (which is teleological and dominated by Eurocentric theories) by a horizontal view of space-time where different elements are juxtaposed. Seeing in this way, claims of universalisation should be questioned, and investigations on the dynamic space-time are urgently needed. Some endeavours can be witnessed in the literature, such as Wang Hui’s (2011) discussion on “trans-systemic society” and “trans-societal system,” yet more efforts are required to rethink how and to what extent China can be a method to understand the world. This critical reflection on seeing China as a methodology approach can be potentially productive in geographical inquiries on/in/related to China.

In this session, we aim at continuing the proposition put forward by Mizoguchi almost three decades ago and focus on how the “study of China” may yield methodological and/or epistemological implications for not only studying China but also geographical inquiries in general. “China” is more than a field site, especially in the contemporary world where “the spectre of global China” (Lee, 2014) can be seen everywhere. Hence, we invite theoretical and empirical contributions that concern methodological and epistemological implications of the “study of China,” with “China” being broadly defined as the starting point and hopefully transcended at the end.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

  • What do China and the study of China mean in nowadays geographical research?
  • How can China be studied more than a subject, but as an entity, relation, process, nexus…?
  • What and how are theories used in and/or built from the study of China? What are the theoretical potentials and challenges in the study of China?
  • What kind of implications can be drawn from studies in/on China for broader concerns in fieldwork methods?
  • Where and how to locate China in comparative studies?

 

Paper Session I

Chair: Yueming Zhang (University of Birmingham, UK)

Discussant: Jennifer Robinson (University College London, UK)

(Extra)ordinary Beijing: On urban ontologies and artistic practice

  • Julie Ren (London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)
  • Murray Mckenzie (University College London, UK)

Space as a method: Field sites and encounters in Beijing’s green belts

  • Yimin Zhao (London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)

Provincialising the West, de-parochialising China: Some reflections from China’s urban centres and ethnic peripheries

  • Junxi Qian (University of Hong Kong, HK)

China in the African imaginary and the problems of solidarity

  • Xiaoran Hu (Queen Mary University of London, UK)

Paper Session II

Chair: Yimin Zhao (London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)

Discussant: Max D. Woodworth (Ohio State University, US)

From Xinjiang to Addis Ababa: Encountering China at its “periphery” and “frontier”

  • Ding Fei (University of Minnesota, US)

Displaying connections between Chinese and global Muslim communities through fashions in transnational urban space in the Hui Quarter in Xi’an

  • Yang Yang (University of Colorado – Boulder, US)

Of “other” people: The exotic landscape of Chinese diasporas (and its rejection) in Boston

  • Jing Luo (Tsinghua University, China)

Not “China as Methods” but “Chinese dialectics” as a methodology: The tongbian approach

  • Wing-shing Tang (Hong Kong Baptist University, HK)

 

References

Chen, K.-H., 2010. Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialization. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Lee, C. K., 2014. The spectre of global China. New Left Review (89):29-65.

Mizoguchi, Y., 2011 [1989]. China as Method [Zuowei fangfade zhongguo]. Beijing: SDX Joint Publishing Company.

Robinson, J., 2006. Ordinary cities: Between modernity and development. Routledge.

Wang, H., 2011. Trans-systemic Society and Regional Perspective in Chinese Studies. boundary 2, 38(1):165-201.

世界城市里的异乡人

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在伦敦住了这么久,每次我想吃烤肉的时候,都会去东边的 Aldgate(印巴人聚居区,拥有英国最大的清真寺)。那儿有两家店,烤肉做得都很不错,但风格迥异。

其中一家是个叫“老地方”的中国餐馆,主打东北菜,小鸡炖蘑菇曾经做得很地道。每次去,我都会不由自主地点上几个羊肉串儿,再叫一瓶青岛,仿佛还能重温一点当年在北京“撸串”的幸福时光。有一阵子他们突然停止了烤串生意,理由很搞笑,说是在英国找不到合适的木炭了。

这家餐馆的英文名是 My Old Place。 翻译很巧妙,每次我都会用这个名字引诱办公室的各国同学去吃加了很多辣椒的东北菜。我会着重跟他们强调:咱去 My old place 吃点中国菜吧!然后他们就莫名其妙地看着我点上诸如麻辣鸭舌的菜,再把一整盘菜和辣椒全部狼吞虎咽掉。

另外一家把我迷得神魂颠倒的吃肉的地儿,叫拉合尔烤肉坊 (Lahore Kebab House)。拉合尔就是著名电影《拉合尔茶馆的陌生人》里的那个地方,巴基斯坦第二大城市,玄奘曾在7世纪初到访过。

一开始,我并不知道这家店,也并不想知道 Aldgate 地区其他任何餐馆。我初来乍到,本能地保持着对陌生人和陌生空间的提防,同时,中国留学生之中还流行着种种传言,如印巴餐馆卫生状况糟糕。诸如此类的话语,都退却了我的好奇心。

当我那关系很好又在土耳其呆过很久的意大利哥们提议,去这家店考察一下巴基斯坦烤肉的时候,我内心是拒绝的。但在他们连拉带拽之下,我终于还是硬着头皮走了进去,看着满屋子嘈杂的人群,恐慌。我坐定之后发现,屋子里坐的一多半都是白人,不过老板和服务员确实还是南亚人的面孔。打开菜单,照例是看不懂的,于是就照猫画虎,跟那个意大利哥们点了个一样的菜。

我记得那是一道咖喱烤羊肉,放在一个直径比饭盒稍大的铁锅里,服务员上菜就是把一个个这样的铁锅端到我们面前,然后提醒我们小心别烫着。里面肉很多,浸在咖喱汁里,差不多占满了整半锅,而且毫不含糊,见不到中餐里常见的那些伎俩:没有土豆、没有胡萝卜、没有豆芽,真的全都是肉。肉食动物如我见到这样的场景立刻就按捺不住,更不用提锅里飘出来的香气有多诱人,于是就着旁边的馕(编按:中西亚地区常见的面饼),狼吞虎咽起来。

经此一役,我便时不时地喊上同学们去“拉合尔”饕餮一番。巴基斯坦人多信仰伊斯兰教,所以餐馆不卖酒——但不禁止喝酒。于是每次我们过去的时候,都会先在旁边的小店里买上些 cider,买上些 ale,口味重的同学就买 guinness,然后浩浩荡荡拎进去,实现酒和肉的完美融合。一番酒足饭饱之后,如果恰好遇到英超联赛,我们就围坐在电视机边,听德国、巴西和意大利人调侃英国同学——和他支持的球队。

 

Kebab 打开的社会历史视野

久而久之,我想吃肉的时候反而有些举棋不定了:到底是老地方的烤串呢,还是拉合尔的 kebab?本来,在我还只迷恋前者的时候,总觉得那里才是自己的主场。因为语言熟悉、菜单熟悉,我不仅重新找回了空间上的归属感,还能在饭桌上决断一群人的口腹之欲如何得以实现。

但我对拉合尔的好感也随着去的次数而直线上升:那儿的肉不仅好吃,而且便宜——那半锅才只卖七八块钱。更关键的是——去得越来越多,我对菜单也越来越熟悉,以至于到后来,我真的说不清老地方和拉合尔到底哪个才是我的“老地方”。

Aldgate 在我心中的定义也因此改变了。在我还只愿意吃中餐的时候,时常会对满街的南亚移民心生恐慌:我不知道(也不愿意知道)他们为什么来伦敦,在这里做什么,又如何维持生计。

但是跟拉合尔熟悉起来之后,我慢慢明白他们落脚英国的殖民起源:在两次世界大战前后,先是大量南亚次大陆的专业人士(比如医生、教师等)开始移入,然后是更多的普通人随着解殖浪潮涌向伦敦。战后的英国劳动力严重匮乏,正是这些南亚移民在各个领域填补了社会的需求。

我也明白了,他们可以在这里扎根,可以把自己的过去和未来、故土和当下齐整地拼接。据不完全统计,现在在英国有超过150万南亚移民,其中约三分之一生活在伦敦。这些移民不仅能过好自己的生活,还能继续做出好吃的烤肉,也许比在他们自己家乡的更好吃。

比如 Chicken Tikka Masala,一道被英国人奉为经典的印度菜(有人甚至宣称这才应被称为英国国菜),据说就起源于格拉斯哥的南亚移民社区,而非来自印度本土。

 

南亚移民比较危险?

只是很可惜,在伦敦的很多中国人,却依然无视或蔑视这样的地方、这样的人群,而不以为耻。就像当初的我一样,很多人只看到街上四五个南亚孩子跟着妈妈慢慢行走,只看见伦敦人选出了一个巴基斯坦穆斯林做市长,便立刻武断地下判决:什么白左圣母,什么伦敦斯坦,什么绿教蔓延……

如果真跟他们辩论,很多新的说辞又会冒出来。如这次国航事件一样,很多人会拿犯罪率的地理分布说事,说越是移民聚居区犯罪率越高。但他们却对事实不管不顾。殊不知,根据数据,伦敦犯罪率最高的地方,恰恰是定居移民最少的市中心地带:西敏市(City of Westminster)。

即便是面对数据地图,还有人会继续辩称,犯罪主体的身份并不明确,也会辩称在郊区(移民聚居区)同样有几个街区犯罪率较高。

但他们不能不面对的事实是:东部高犯罪率的地方,同时也是公共开支最匮乏的地方,是社会福利缺失最严重的地方,而不只是移民人口最密集的地方。相关性和因果性的界限,真的模糊到可以如此轻易地跨越吗?更进一步追问:犯罪的社会和政治经济根源,为何就这么轻易地被种族话语掩盖?

种族歧视的路径还可以延伸下去。除了攻击移民的犯罪问题,还有人会把他们的宗教信仰也囊括进来,在宗教信仰和恐怖袭击之间,嫁接上一劳永逸的关联。在他们看来,上个月在大英博物馆旁边发生的持刀伤人案还不够严重,没法支撑他们的观点,于是2005年7月7日那一系列爆炸案又被提起。

 

作为“世界城市”的伦敦

不管是有意还是无意,这些国人都忽视了时任伦敦市长 Ken Livingstone 在袭击发生后的一席话

(This attack) was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever…

Even after your (the terrorists’) cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential…

They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves… Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.

这篇演说展现的,不是政治正确,也不是老政客的口吐莲花,而是一个有判断力的人理应认同的观察:恐怖分子的袭击,可以指向任何一个个体,这也正是他们被称为恐怖分子的原因。如果因此去煽动任何种族或宗教的仇恨,那么结果必然是掉进恐怖分子们期待的陷阱。

我们每一个人,都只是想过好自己的生活。因此我们离别故土,飘洋过海,在种种艰辛里尝试着探索。在各自的旅程里,无论是南亚人、黑人、中国人,还是意大利人、德国人、南美人,大家纷纷来到伦敦。我们愿意选择伦敦落脚,自然是伦敦的幸运,因为这充分地展现出它的吸引力和包容度。但更关键的是不同人群之间的互动——是我们的互动,在塑造着今日的伦敦。

当地理学家 Doreen Massey 说伦敦是一座“世界城市”的时候,她所指的不是作为国际金融中心的伦敦;相反,她真正想强调的正是这种日常的相遇:四面八方、不同种族、不同宗教的人相聚于此,逐渐信任彼此,共同改变伦敦的时空。这样的伦敦不再只是一座局限于本地的城市,它成了全球网络、关系、感情的联结点,并因此为更加开放和乐观的未来奠定了时空和社会基础。

 

司空见惯的“地图炮”

种族歧视的目光和心理,给这样的相遇可能性投下了浓重的阴影。前几日,在中国国际航空飞往伦敦的班机上,随机附赠的旅行指南指名道姓地提道:“到伦敦旅行很安全,但有些印巴聚集区和黑人聚集区相对较乱。夜晚最好不要单独出行,女士应该尽量结伴而行。”

如果你在伦敦的华人圈子里稍微呆过,大概会立刻点评道:这样的认知在国人心里很普遍,国航傻就傻在说话太直白,要是再委婉点多好。

但是,让我们扪心自问:这真的就只是委婉不委婉的问题吗?在英华人常常不以为意的这些歧视,只有在他者的质疑里才能暴露出真面目。

有人会说我们已经受够了政治正确。但事实上,我们的政治正确不是太多,而是太少了。“地图炮”式的地域歧视,大家早已司空见惯了吧?当一群又一群人攻击河南人、新疆人、东北人、外地人的时候,各位有没有加进去添把火?空间化了的族群歧视太深入骨髓,反倒已经被很多人视作稀松平常。不要谈什么反思,哪怕是正视自己和他人的目光,都根本不存在。

在这些语言里,无论是攻击方还是被攻击方都没有想过:这样基于籍贯和出生地的身份标签,何以就能概括那些地方和其间所有人的特质呢?当我们每个人都在极力向他人宣称自己的独特性时,为何就能对别人同样具有的独特性视而不见?

 

族群歧视问题

来到伦敦的很多中国人,自然而然延续了这种传统,开始把世界各地的人群简单归类,然后再把这些人分成三六九等。他们会挤破头去接近和模仿被贴上“先进”和“高等”标签的人群,然后尽全力避免跟“低等”人群有任何接触。

在日常行为里,中国人深藏于潜意识里的这些歧视,早已屡见不鲜。我们常常会对住在东区的朋友说:“晚上早点回家,那里印巴人太多”。我们会努力把自己的活动范围局限于泰晤士河北岸,因为南岸 “黑人太多”。我们中的很多人,大概早已忘记自己也曾属于“黄祸”,也曾是种族主义的直接受害者。

当年的种族主义者开始承认错误并承担责任(许多“政治正确”正是源于此),为何受害者却摇身一变成了施害者?真是一种吊诡的境遇。

当我们企图用标签简化他人的时候,不妨再多想想,既然人生活在社会中,那么与他人接近和交流,就是人之为人的重要条件。我自己无法确认“我”的外部边界,“你”也一样,“我”和“你”的身份认同是在交往的过程中相互认定的。在我们彼此接近之前,彼此的身份都不存在,存在的只是种种虚幻,或者说虚妄的话语。在接近的过程里,我们意识到并承认彼此的差异,探索可能的相似或连结点,逐渐确认彼此在对方生活里的位置。这样的定位过程,才应该是“identity”一词真正的内涵。

拉合尔烤肉界定了我和 Aldgate 之间的关系,界定了那些拉合尔人在我生活里的位置。因此我不再惧怕那个地方和那个人群,我敬佩他们安家落户站稳脚跟的能力,我欣赏他们做出来的,美味的旁遮普风味羊肉,我相信他们和我一样在追求自己的美好生活。我会常常跟来伦敦旅游的朋友推荐 Aldgate,推荐去尝尝拉合尔烤肉——我的老地方。

如果你也在伦敦,不如撕掉标签,放下成见,去尝尝他们那里的美味吧。

(本文最初以“老地方和拉合尔”为标题发表于豆瓣,修改后转载于端传媒

RGS-IBG AC 2016: Sessions to go

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This year’s RGS-IBG Annual Conference is going to start tomorrow in London. Below is a list of sessions that I want to hear more details during this three-day event. Welcome to join us if you are in London and are interested in any session listed below.

And by the way, I will give a short presentation in paper session No.339 (Friday 02 September 2016, 14:40 – 16:20). The abstract can be found here. I look forward to seeing you then and hearing any comment you would like to give.

 

Chair’s plenary lectures

The Ghost in the Nexus: Global Poverty and the Dilemmas of Development

Ananya Roy (University of California Los Angeles, USA)

Thursday 1 September 2016, 13.10, RGS-IBG Ondaatje Theatre

In this talk, I situate “nexus thinking” in the present conjuncture of sustainable development and in the long history of development as a global project. In doing so, I pay attention to the disciplines and professions that are being mobilized to solve urgent human problems, specifically that of poverty. Framed as scientific solutions towards a better world, such frameworks of action are also replete with distinctive aspirations and affects. Foregrounding the figure of the millennial – college students and young professionals enrolled in the global university and enlisted in the work of poverty action – I examine the potentialities and limits of the will to make poverty history, and thereby of nexus thinking.

Discussants: Jennifer Robinson (University College London, UK); Parvati Raghuram (The Open University, UK)

 

Plenaries, panels, workshops

Wednesday (31 August)

  • Area are sponsoring a panel on Ethics in/of geographical research, chaired by Peter Kraftl. Panellists: Sarah Marie Hall (The University of Manchester, UK); James Cheshire (University College London, UK); Anson Mackay (University College London, UK); Stephen Tooth (Aberystwyth University, UK); Jen Dickinson (University of Leicester, UK); and Andy Nobes (INASP/Author Aid, UK). Wednesday, 14.40; room: RGS-IBG Education Centre. This will be followed by a tea and cake reception.
  • The Antipode lecture, Recomposing Urban Collective Life: On Operations and the Inoperable, will be given by AbdouMaliq Simone (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany). Wednesday, 16.50; room: RGS-IBG Ondaatje Theatre. This will be followed by a reception.

Thursday (1 September)

  • Author meets critics: Fiona McConnell – Rehearsing the State: The Political Practices of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile (RGS-IBG Book Series, Wiley-Blackwell). Thursday, 09.00; room: RGS-IBG Drayson Room.
  • The Progress in Human Geography lecture, Trust – in Geography, will be given by Charles Withers (The University of Edinburgh, UK). Thursday, 11.10; room: RGS-IBG Ondaatje Theatre.
  • Colleagues of John Urry (1946-2016) have organised a Remembrance and Book Launch in celebration of his work. Thursday, 16.50; room: RGS-IBG Council Room. This will be followed by a reception.
  • Authors meet critics: Planetary gentrification by Loretta Lees , Hyun Bang Shin and Ernesto López-Morales (Polity). Thursday, 16.50; room: RGS-IBG Ondaatje Theatre. To be followed by a drinks reception, sponsored by Urban Studies.

Friday (2 September)

  • The Social and Cultural Geography lecture, Beyond policing the migrant crisis: Geographical contributions, will be given by Parvati Raghuram (The Open University, UK). Friday, 09.00.
  • Colleagues and former students of Doreen Massey have organised a celebration of her life and work, including screening a montage made up from contributions from people who met her and worked with her in all spheres of her life. Friday, 16.50; room: RGS-IBG Ondaatje Theatre.

 

Paper sessions on Wednesday (31 August)

No.16 The London nexus – metropolitan elites in the 21st century, new perspectives on Britain’s south-eastern skew

Timetable: Wednesday 31 August 2016, Session 1 (09:00 – 10:40) || Skempton Building, Lecture Theatre 164, Imperial College London || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/16

No.24 Geography and Decolonization, c.1945-c.1980 (1)

Timetable: Wednesday 31 August 2016, Session 1 (09:00 – 10:40) || Room 5, Skempton Building, Imperial College London || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/24

No.29 Post-phenomenological Geographies: methods and styles of researching and writing the human (1): Subjects

Timetable: Wednesday 31 August 2016, Session 1 (09:00 – 10:40) || Royal School of Mines, Room G.05 || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/29

No.56 Geography and Decolonization, c.1945-c.1980 (2)

Timetable: Wednesday 31 August 2016, Session 2 (11:10 – 12:50) || Room 5, Sherfield Building || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/56

No.61 State, Territory, Urbanism: Exploring the Nexus Between Government and Infrastructure (2)

Timetable: Wednesday 31 August 2016, Session 2 (11:10 – 12:50) || Room 10, Sherfield Building || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/61

No.69 Affect and the Geographies of Power

Timetable: Wednesday 31 August 2016, Session 3 (14:40 – 16:20) || RGS-IBG Ondaatje Theatre || Panel discussion: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/69

No.84 Nexus Thinking in Gentrification Studies (2)

Timetable: Wednesday 31 August 2016, Session 3 (14:40 – 16:20) || Skempton Building, Lecture Theatre 164 || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/84

No.98 Forging politicised solidarities in, against and beyond the European crisis (1): Articulating local solidarities

Timetable: Wednesday 31 August 2016, Session 3 (14:40 – 16:20) || Royal School of Mines, Room G.05 || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/98

No.102 Set in motion: walking the history of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) c.1830-2016

Timetable: Wednesday 31 August 2016, Session 3 (14:40 – 16:20) || Offsite (field tour): http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/102

No.118 Nexus Thinking in Gentrification Studies (3)

Timetable: Wednesday 31 August 2016, Session 4 (16:50 – 18:30) || Skempton Building, Lecture Theatre 164 || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/118

No.128 Operations of capital: Studying the nexus of land, housing, and finance across the North-South divide

Timetable: Wednesday 31 August 2016, Session 4 (16:50 – 18:30) || Sherfield Building, Room 7 || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/128

No.132 Forging politicised solidarities in, against and beyond the European crisis (2): Towards trans-local solidarities

Timetable: Wednesday 31 August 2016, Session 4 (16:50 – 18:30) || Royal School of Mines, Room G.05 || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/132

 

Paper sessions on Thursday (1 September)

No.181 Contested urban green spaces in the ‘austerity city’: Re-politicising the environment and commoning public spaces? (1): Funding and Management

Timetable: Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 2 (11:10 – 12:50) || Skempton Building, Room 064b || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/181

No.215 Contested urban green spaces in the ‘austerity city’: Re-politicising the environment and commoning public spaces? (2): Planning and Governance

Timetable: Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 3 (14:40 – 16:20) || Skempton Building, Room 064b || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/215

No.217 The City-Hinterland Nexus in Global Context: The dynamics of rural-urban connections in different global contexts (1)

Timetable: Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 3 (14:40 – 16:20) || Skempton Building, Lecture Theatre 164 || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/217

No.234 Deaf spaces of Victorian London – a walking tour

Timetable: Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 3 (14:40 – 16:20) || Offsite (field tour): http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/234

 

Paper sessions on Friday (2 September)

No.271 Geographies of Anti-colonialism (1): Theorising Anti-colonialisms

Timetable: Friday 02 September 2016, Session 1 (09:00 – 10:40) || Sir Alexander Fleming Building, Lecture Theatre G34 || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/271

No.281 Beyond Borders and Nations: Transnational Geographies from Syria to Europe (1): Transnational Geographies of solidarity and resistance

Timetable: Friday 02 September 2016, Session 1 (09:00 – 10:40) || Skempton Building, Room 165 || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/281

No.301 Geographies of Anti-colonialism (2): Histories of Anti-colonialism

Timetable: Friday 02 September 2016, Session 2 (11:10 – 12:50) || Sir Alexander Fleming Building, Lecture Theatre G34 || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/301

No.311 Beyond Borders and Nations: Transnational Geographies from Syria to Europe (2): Transnational Geographies of segregation

Timetable: Friday 02 September 2016, Session 2 (11:10 – 12:50) || Skempton Building, Room 165 || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/311

No.339 Narrating Displacements: A Radical Way to Rethink Urban Theories and Politics

Timetable: Friday 02 September 2016, Session 3 (14:40 – 16:20) || Skempton Building, Room 163 || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/339

No.374 Rethinking Life at the Margins: The Assemblage of Contexts, Subjects and Politics

Timetable: Friday 02 September 2016, Session 4 (16:50 – 18:30) || Sherfield Building, Room 7 || Abstracts: http://conference.rgs.org/AC2016/374

 

Closing drinks reception

Friday 18:45-20:00; RGS-IBG Ondaatje Theatre

 

RGS-IBG AC 2016: Narrating Displacements

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Narrating Displacements: A Radical Way to Rethink Urban Theories and Politics

RGS-IBG Annual Conference, August 30 to September 2, London, UK

Convenors

Hyun Bang Shin (The London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)
Yimin Zhao (The London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)
Mara Nogueira (The London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)

Session abstract

We have been witnessing the rise of urban expansion, gentrification, mega-events and many other political economic events in urban space; all of them have direct impacts on the daily life of local residents through large- or small-scale displacements. Displacement hence becomes a term that has been widely used for critical urban theories in analysing contemporary urban change, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world. When people use this word in the literature, however, relatively few attentions are paid to mechanisms through which place-based understandings and discourses of displacement are enabling/ bounding the historical-geographical conjuncture of domination and resistance.

Discourses of displacement are diverse geographically; they are also narrated and deployed by different subjects from distinct perspectives in displacement processes. Expressions like “chaiqian” (demolition and relocation), “qianyi” (relocation), “qiangpo qianyi” (forced relocation) are used in China to express actions through which the state institutions and businesses operate. In South Korea, “cheolgeo” (demolition), “gangje cheolgeo” (forced demolition) or “yiju” (relocation) are more frequently utilised by those subject to displacement. Elsewhere in Latin America, for example in Brazil, “despejo” (eviction) “desalojamento forçado” (forced eviction) and “expulsão” (expulsion) are common concepts deployed by those suffering displacement threats and their allies. On the other hand, the actors promoting displacement prefer to deploy milder terms such as “desocupação” (evacuation) or “realocação” (reallocation).

The use of these particular expressions shifts the focus towards the final act of displacement; even though in reality people would experience (the feeling of) displacement long before actual demolition, eviction or relocation. Moreover, discussions about belonging and the sense of place show how displacement may occur even in the absence of such events. In this regard, abrupt changes to space might cause people to feel “out of place” even though they remain in the same location. To narrate the experience of displacement focusing only on the final acts has serious negative implications for formulating effective strategies that allow pre-emptive earlier contestations to resist and counteract displacement pressure. Furthermore, how displacement is actually narrated in a given local context is not trivial, for conceptualising displacement is itself political.

This session invites papers to reflect on narratives and discourses mobilised around displacement in a diverse range of social, political, economic and cultural settings by attending specifically to the tensions emerging from conceptualisation of displacement by different subjects in daily practices. The aim is to collaboratively reveal the role of displacement discourses in constructing the historical-geographical conjuncture of domination/ resistance, and to uncover power relations/ mechanisms and state effects produced within this conjuncture. Suggestive topics include:

  • Place-based understanding (especially outside the Western context) of displacement and its socio-spatial effects;
  • Conceptualising displacement by different subjects;
  • The role of space in enabling or bounding people’s conceptualisation of displacement, or in affecting their reflections on the gaps between different conceptualisations;
  • The state manoeuver and tactics in promoting displacement with legitimised (sometimes hegemonic) ideology;
  • The effects of different narratives in reshaping understandings of displacement and in opening up possibilities for resistances.

Abstracts of presentations – Session 1

Chair: Hyun Bang Shin
Time: Friday 02 September 2016, 14:40 - 16:20
Venue: TBC

Antagonistic Space and Subjects in Beijing’s Greenbelt

Yimin Zhao (The London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)

In the mainstream literature of contentious politics, space is frequently assumed as a container or a bounded entity. This view has been gradually altered by political geographers, who attend more to the constitutive role of space in understanding socio-political changes. Yet what has been under-examined in the literature is how and to what extent individuals become both spatial objects and political subjects simultaneously in the rise and fall of social movements. This research, drawing on the observation of contingent construction (and decaying) of collective actions in Beijing’s Greenbelt, aims to demonstrate that space and subjects of resistances are mutually constitutive of each other. The paper will illustrate that this mutual constitution needs to be identified by focusing on residues of the hegemonic logic underlying the rise of spatial antagonism. In Beijing’s Greenbelt, the local state’s urbanisation project not only transforms the territorial structure of the rural-urban continuum and the political economy within this structure but also shapes the way villagers view their land, houses and (property) rights. Following transformations of their lifeworld, villagers’ bodies and subjectivities are remade to the extent that their consciousness, identities and discourses are all affected and redefined by the local state’s hegemonic logic. For example, money, rather than the sense of place, becomes the predominant evaluation principle in the displacement process, deployed by both local state and villagers themselves. These impacts altogether make their resistances to displacement possible, but at the same time make these actions contingent and render difficult, if not impossible, the call for wider and stronger resistance alliances for “the right to the city”.

Disciplining Street Life in Hong Kong: Narratives of Displacement and Urban Resistance

Maurizio Marinelli (University of Sussex, UK)

This paper investigates the mega-project of transforming the physical and socio-economic structures of retailing and dwelling in colonial-global Hong Kong. The selected focus is on the progressive annihilation of street markets to create space for ultra-modern, luxury high-rise buildings. Street markets play a crucial role in the policies of urban regeneration, heritage, place making, healthy eating, sustainability, environmental impact, social and community cohesion (Watson, 2005; Stillerman 2006; Shepherd, 2009). Based on the premise that street hawking and street markets are historically part of a wider socio-economic, political, and cultural system, this paper will concentrate on the stories of survival, resistance and metamorphosis of the ‘vital living past’ of Graham Street Market in Hong Kong’s Central District. This 150 years old market, a remarkable example of ‘living heritage’, is currently under threat due to neo-liberal logic of redevelopment and gentrification of colonial-global Hong Kong: in 2007 the Urban Renewal Authority announced its plan to destroy the vibrant market (which was declared ‘a slum’), and replace it with four brand new, sleek, luxury high-rise office buildings, hotels and shopping malls. The paper analyses the role of concerned civil society organisations (such as ‘Savethemarket’) vis-à-vis Government authorities, urban planners and developers in the battle against domicide: the destruction of home which also implies the destruction of memory (Porteous, Smith, 2001). The analysis of this historical market will shed light on the entanglement between the condition of precarity of the street hawkers and the complex socio-economic and political mechanisms which are leading to the annihilation of this ‘living heritage’.

Who has the right to remain in place?

Mara Nogueira (The London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)

How far can we stretch the concept of displacement? This paper discusses this question drawing on qualitative data collected during five months of fieldwork in the city of Belo Horizonte/Brazil regarding three cases of “displacement” connected to the World Cup. The first one concerns an informal settlement, evicted to give room for an urban mobility project. The second focuses on a group of informal workers displaced for the modernization of the local stadium. The third case discusses the struggle of a neighbourhood association to stop the construction of a hotel in their residential street. I argue that only the first case is rightfully considered a “displacement” case, in the sense that the State recognizes the right of the occupiers to be reallocated. I further discuss how the past historic struggle of the social movements for the right to dwell has engendered both legislation that acknowledges their rights and institutions that manage the process, guaranteeing some minimum rights. On the other hand, in the case of the stadium workers, their claims for the right to reallocation are based on weaker assumptions that are not covered by appropriate legislation and, therefore, not recognized by the State. In their struggle for the recognition of their rights, the workers have employed many strategies and alliances that are described in the paper. Finally, the paper raises the question of how appropriate is the use of the concept of displacement to categorize the processes unfolding in the third case. The neighbourhood association wants to keep their residential neighbourhood from changing. I argue that, although they’ve deployed a series of arguments (legal and political) to stop the hotel construction, what motivates their struggle is the desire to remain in place. However, the search for a place within the urban is a conflictive process. Who has the right to remain in place and who doesn’t? Is every claim against displacement equal through the lens of social justice? Does the concept of displacement become a-political once you stretch it too far?

Understanding multiple voices within the resistance movement of the Occupations of Izidora in Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Luciana Maciel Bizzotto (Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil)

Urban occupations stand out as a strategy to fight for the urban re-appropriation in the current political resistance scenario in Brazilian metropolis. What has been observed is the multiplication of horizontal occupations of empty or abandoned lands, with the support of social movements organized against the eviction of thousands of families that make up the current housing deficit in the country. This form of resistance comprises a series of discourses, considering the different actors that are activated by it. To illustrate this point, I present the case of the resistance movement of the Occupations of Izidora, located in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais. The network of supporters that formed the resistance process of these urban occupations – #ResisteIzidora movement – is inserted in a context of strengthening social mobilization in the city and has helped to prevent the eviction of about 8,000 families that now resist to a project that fits in strategic planning’s logic. Based on the methodology of Mapping Controversies, data were compiled through interviews, newspaper reports, blogs and Facebook pages, which were analyzed by the various discourses made by the actors of the resistance network settled – social movements, residents, universities, public institutions and others. The study has shown how even within a resistance movement, in which different actors fight jointly to the non-eviction of the occupations, they do, however, adopt different speeches, ultimately attributing the resistance process itself different meanings.

Abstracts of presentations – Session 2

Chair: Yimin Zhao
Time: Friday 02 September 2016, 16:50 - 18:30
Venue: TBC

The Revanchist Politics of Benevolent Disaster-Induced Evictions Across Metro Manila: Pasig City in the Post-Ketsana Moment

Maria Khristine Alvarez (University of the Philippines, The Philippines)

In this paper, I examine the discourse of disaster-induced evictions in Metro Manila using Pasig City as case study. I draw on critical discourse analysis of interviews and policy documents to discuss the peculiar portrayal of ‘danger zone’ evictions as both apolitical and political, and reflect on the political expediency of this particular configuration, to point to a nascent mode of enunciating and enforcing evictions. I demonstrate how portraying slum evictions as logical interventions and as “technical”, “neutral”, and “apolitical” acts of governance (Ferguson, 1994) de-problematizes the common wisdom of disaster risk management and depoliticizes ‘expert’ opinion in order to diminish the hostility at the heart of evictions. I argue that the deployment of benevolence, which materializes as performance of concern for safety, is instrumental in facilitating outward flows of unwanted bodies. Yet, I show that this benevolence is betrayed by the insistence on contested vulnerabilities and the persistence of eviction orders, by the harassment to self-demolish and ‘voluntarily relocate’ to off-city resettlement sites, and by stories of relocation that dispute the peddled promise of a safe future. I conclude that mobilizing the discourse of ‘apolitical’ yet ‘benevolent’ evictions conceals the revanchist politics of Metro Manila’s disaster resiliency program.

Gusur and Rusunawa: Rebuild Indonesia Cities from the Scratch

Syarifah Aini Dalimunthe (Indonesia Institute of Sciences, Indonesia)

Jakarta current inhabitant is 19 million and 5 million of them are occupied and clogged waterways. This has created flood, then frequently resulting in severe socioeconomic damage. City administrator is now looking for options to reduce the risk. Current city administration terms and operating procedures to reduce the risk are gusur (violent eviction) and rusunawa (low-cost apartment). By December 2015, the city administration conducted gusur program to 12,000 families occupying riverbanks in a single slum neighborhood namely Kampung Pulo in order to speed up its river normalization program. The victim of gusur is set to be relocated to the nearby rusunawa expected to be able to accommodate 4,500 families. While the rest has to survive on their own such as rented a house nearby or send their children back to hometown. Despite the housing backlog, the city administration pledged not to stop the gusur project. The term gusur is now a formula spread among city administration across Indonesia. Gusur claimed to change Indonesian cities to meet global standard, ensure public order, remove squatter settlement or clear land for infrastructure projects. However, the government has used excessive force to conduct gusur across Indonesia cities and failed to provide alternative housing or other assistance to the displaced. It has created discourses which emphasize the right of the poor in the city and their right to make a viable living.

(Re)location, Resistance and Memory: Narratives of displacement amongst earthquake relocatees in Christchurch, New Zealand

Simon Dickinson (University of Exeter, UK)

Forced relocation as a result of government initiative and intervention has received significant attention. Much of this work has focused on the entrepreneurial politics of market-orientated development (Wu, 2014) and discourses surrounding the deconcentration of the urban poor by way of clearing-the-way policy (Goetz, 2003). Yet, disasters, and the subsequent relocation of affected populations during ‘recovery’, has received less attention – presumably because the pre-text of chaos and ‘public safety’ seemingly obscures the need to examine how particular power relations/mechanisms play out under the context of ’emergency’. With this in mind, this paper develops an account of resistance and place-making amongst forced relocatees after the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010-11. Relocation was prompted following a government decision to compulsorily acquire property based on damage and future risk – the criteria for which have never been published. Arguing that local coverage has shaped discourses that speak of romanticised, homogenous forms of ‘pushing back’, I draw attention to the ephemeral and interminable acts of resistance that may not otherwise be observed during relocation. Pointing towards these alternative narratives, the paper highlights the various (and often illicit) ways in which movers sought to maintain connections with their earthquake-damaged community/property. Given the contentious process by which relocation was dictated, these acts of resistance derive from a complex interplay between exhibiting agency in ‘place-making’ and the perceived capacity to subtly undermine the power mechanisms at play in the post-quake environment. I contend that these acts have a distinct temporality and speak to motifs of absence, presence and memory.

Discussant

Hyun Bang Shin (The London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)

 

Invisible green belts in Beijing

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Invisible green belts in Beijing: From romantic landscape to businesses opportunity

 

The green belt may be a British idea imported to China, but the concept has worked out to be very different in practice. In the context of Beijing’s urbanisation, it turns out that the local state uses the ecological discourse of the green belt to legitimate its land businesses. Despite the differences, we suggest that there are lessons from China for Britain. In 1958, Beijing saw the approval of its first modern master plan (Beijing-Archives 1958). The municipal government of Beijing proposed in this master plan that “the layout of urban construction should not be concentrated in the city centre anymore, and that a new style is needed with green spaces planned between decentralised conglomerates” (ibid). This marks the birth of Beijing’s green belt as an idea (or, maybe more accurately, a feature on a map).

The idea of Green Belt in Beijing also corresponded to the heydey of a socialist campaign named “The Great Leap Forward” during which the Chinese people were mobilised by Mao Zedong to “surpass Great Britain and catch up with the United States.” Among many targets of this ambitious campaign, “gardening the Earth” was set as a socio-ecological goal to achieve (Chen 1996). In this moment, Sir Ebenezer Howard’s modernist imagination of urban space and Mao Zedong’s socialist modernist vision of the country encountered and blended with each other. Through this encountering, the British-born planning canon was embedded in Beijing’s urban planning practices, which in turn produced a view of landscape including the green belt that mixed the revolutionary and the romantic.

For Chen Gan, then director of Master Plan Office in Beijing Urban Planning and Administration Bureau, a decentralised city layout including green belts could be a flexible tool to deal with rapid urbanisation and could direct urban development in a well-planned way in the long future (Chen 1996, 13-17; originally written in 1959). This partly explains why green belt has been set as an essential part of the urban area in Beijing since 1958. In practice, however, Beijing’s green belt existed more as a part of the master plan than real space for nearly four decades. In a letter written by Chen Gan in 1967, he admitted that suburban vegetable plots (more than 153.33 km2) had covered a majority of the planned green belt area. Beijing’s green belt had not achieved a romantic landscape of open countryside but was full of rural communities, residents, and their cultivated fields.

In 1994, the Beijing municipal government (BMG) focused once again on the green belt. Their new aim, familiar to the UK, was to prevent the sprawl of urban areas and to make the 240km2 green belt “really green” (BMG 1994). The BMG gave the market and capital a key role as villages located within the green belt were required to “use green spaces to attract investments, and utilise these for the exploitation of land, build green spaces in the exploitation process, and cultivate green spaces through green industry” (ibid; my italics). These policies can be summarised in a simpler way: the green belt was to make acceptable the promotion of real-estate development in the urban fringe.

17 townships and villages were included in the city’s green belt, they covered 95.23 km2 in total (39.7% of the planned green belt as a whole). In the following three years, however, only 8.62 km2 of this land was ‘turned into green’, while another 11.16 km2were expropriated by BMG for land businesses and infrastructure construction (Beijing Municipal Committee of Urban Planning, 1999). On the other hand, the area of farmland and vegetable plots in this area decreased significantly between 1993 and 1999 (down from 130 km2 to 61.82 km2), and a majority of this decline can be explained by the development of real estate projects (ibid). In this same process, 1.33 million square metres of residential houses were built and sold. The green belt was not “really green,” but became a part of the city’s urbanisation process and turned out to be a “really expensive” area to live in.

These outcomes made clear to municipal officials the potential values of land plots in the planned green belt area. From 2000 to 2003, another set of policies were proposed by BMG to enhance its ‘land businesses’. The “General Headquarter for Building Beijing’s green belt” was established in 2000, headed by then-Mayor Mr Liu Qi (BMG 2000). In 2002, the “General Headquarter” commanded that “related townships and villages are strictly forbidden to attract any investments for land development in the Green Belt” (BMG 2002). “All construction land plots,” they said, “that have not been used in the Green Belt area should principally be expropriated by BMG before any kinds of land transactions” (ibid). BMG’s ambition of controlling more land resources was further practised by proposing the second green belt in 2003 (with a total area of 1,620 km2, see the dark green area in Figure 1) and establishing a “land reservation mechanism” (tudi chubei) in the same year (BMG 2003). These policies together enabled BMG to gradually achieve and practice a monopoly of land supply at the city level (Beijing Municipal Bureau of Land Resources, 2011).

Beijing green belts

Figure 1: A bird’s eye view of Beijing’s two green belts,  Source: BMCUP (2013). Note: (1) the purple line denotes the boundary of the city’s “core urban area”; (2) the light green area signifies the first green belt, proposed in 1958, while the dark green area indicates a small part of the second green belt, introduced in 2003; (3) the light yellow area around Tiananmen Square is set as the urban centre area (zhongxin chengqu), while the ten small yellow areas between first and second green belt are sub-centres (bianyuan zutuan).

There is a rising conflict between making green belts and making money through land resources. In the case of Sunhe (one of a number of areas I’ve studied; see Figure 2 below), the landscape has lost out. The socialist-modernist vision of the urban landscape has been subordinated to capital flow. Plenty of proposals and projects are now put forward, by local government and real estate developers together, to promote land and housing businesses in the green belt. The label of green belt is retained more as a mask to legitimise these booming land businesses, and the interconnection between ecological discourses and political economic concerns looms large in this process.

Sunhe landscape

Figure 2. The invisible green belt in Sunhe  Source: photo by the author, 29/12/2014. Note: according to the master plan and regulatory detailed plan, this area should be a part of Beijing’s Second green belt. It is temporarily discarded because no privileged policies can be sought to run land businesses– but it will not take very long before such policies being figured out.

I now conclude with a lesson from China for Britain. Before arguing for the revising of green belts it would be wise to ask about the political and economic ambitions underlying these proposals. Who is raising them? Who benefits – will changes benefit present and future residents more than real estate developers? And, what other general effects on social justice can and should be identified? These questions are fundamental, and other issues such as (the control of) housing prices can be examined better when put into this political economic process.

 

(First appeared on LSE Green Belt Blog, see: http://www.lse.ac.uk/geographyAndEnvironment/research/GreenBelt/Green-Belt-Blog/Green-Belt-Blog-Home/Invisible-green-belts-in-Beijing.aspx)

 

References

Beijing-Archives. 1958. No. 1-5-253: Report on the Preliminary Urban Plan of Beijing. edited by Beijing Archives. Beijing.

BMBLR. 2011. The plan for protecting and utilising land resources in the 12th-Five-Year-Plan peirod. published by Beijing Municipal Bureau of Land Resources. Beijing.

BMCUP. 1999. Survey report on the planned Green Belt area around Beijing’s city centre. published by Beijing Municipal Committee of Urban Planning. Beijing.

BMCUP. 2013. Evaluation report on the implementation of Green Belt policies in Beijing’s urban core area. published by Beijing Municipal Committee of Urban Planning. Beijing.

BMG. 1994. Ordinance on greening the planned Green Belt area. published by Beijing Municipal Government. Beijing.

BMG. 2000. Ordinance on speeding up the construction of Green Belt. published by Beijing Municipal Government. Beijing.

BMG. 2002. Announcement on making unified arrangement of remaining construction land plots in the Green Belt area. published by Beijing Municipal Government. Beijing.

BMG. 2003. Ordinance on speeding up the construction of the Second Green Belt. published by Beijing Municipal Government. Beijing.

Chen, Gan. 1996. Rethinking Beijing: a memoir [Jinghua Daisilu]. Beijing: Beijing Academy of Urban Planning and Design.