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As in other quickly developing cities, a prevalent trope for gentrified Beijing is the palimpsest. It places the passing of time within a narrative of spatial transformation and the preservation of collective memory. I propose that although palimpsest seems to offer a location-specific and historically coherent self, the metaphor is often employed to justify the fragmentation of experience and temporal disorientation. A case study that I use is the reconstruction and gentrification of Beijing’s Qianmen district in 2008. Buildings, billboards, and digital screens have formed together a contiguous media in the service of urban utopia. What I call the politics of emergence celebrates new construction and projects an anticipated future onto the perceived present.

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