While previous studies have documented the trials of rural-to-urban migration in postreform China, little is known of the consequences of urban demolition and attendant uncertainty on migrant mental health. Exploring the affective and subjective dimensions of life lived amidst rubble in a migrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Shanghai, this essay describes and analyzes smallscale practices of endurance through dynamics of time, place, and sociality. These modes of dwelling in a ruined environment are key to what the authors refer to as the management of subjectivity, producing moments of being that potentially enable to feel and act otherwise. Considering the management of subjectivity in its own right rather than as mere echoes of postsocialist governmentalities, the authors sustain a dialogue with recent writing on the production of happy and self-reliant marginalized subjects through the Chinese authorities’ turn to “therapeutic governance.”
Life amidst Rubble: Migrant Mental Health and the Management of Subjectivity in Urban China
Lisa Richaud is a postdoctoral researcher of the Fund for Scientific Research—FNRS at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, and a former research associate in the project “Mental Health, Migration, and the Chinese Mega-city” (Fudan University and King’s College London). An anthropologist of urban China, her work has appeared in journals such as Urban Studies and China Information.
Ash Amin is a professor of geography at the University of Cambridge, where he was head of the department until October 2019. His latest books include Land of Strangers (2012) as well as Arts of the Political (2013) and Seeing like a City (2017), both coauthored with Nigel Thrift.
Lisa Richaud, Ash Amin; Life amidst Rubble: Migrant Mental Health and the Management of Subjectivity in Urban China. Public Culture 1 January 2020; 32 (1): 77–106. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-7816305
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