Among the consequences of China’s continued urbanization is a continued decline in the quantity of space and quality of life that cities provide for their less affluent residents. As both transportation rights and public gathering spaces disappear, the disadvantaged are finding that China’s major cities—designed to be business friendly and automobile friendly—are becoming harder to navigate and less hospitable. This essay considers some of the consequences of urbanization in the author’s home city of Shanghai, along with some of the ways that people are fighting back, from repurposing abandoned urban spaces to building and rebuilding communities online. Urbanization of the kind afflicting Shanghai is clearly unsustainable. The city of the future, if there is to be one, must be created with these lessons in mind.
Space for the Disadvantaged: A Study of Shanghai
Wang Xiaoming is founding professor at the Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Shanghai University and is also affiliated with East China Normal University in Shanghai, where he trained a generation of critical intellectuals. He has published a major study of Lu Xun—The Cold Face of Reality: A Biography of Lu Xun (Wufa zhimiande rensheng: Lu Xun zhuang)—and has written extensively on contemporary literature, Chinese urbanism, and intellectual history. He recently edited and published a two-volume anthology of pre- 1949 writing from the long history of the Chinese Revolution.
Lennet Daigle is a translator and PhD student in literature at UC Santa Cruz. His previous graduate work was at Shanghai International Studies University, where he wrote a thesis on the translation of poststructuralist theory. His forthcoming dissertation, “Ethical Exemplarity and Historical Hermeneutics in the Early PRC,” is a study of Chinese historical fiction and its connection to the intellectual origins of the Cultural Revolution. He lives in Munich with his partner and son.
Wang Xiaoming, Lennet Daigle; Space for the Disadvantaged: A Study of Shanghai. boundary 2 1 May 2019; 46 (2): 87–91. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-7497010
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