Ryanne Flock1 (2014), « Panhandling and the Contestation of Public Space in Guangzhou », China Perspectives [Online], 2014/2 | 2014, Online since 01 June 2014, connection on 17 December 2014. URL : http://chinaperspectives.revues.org/6449
Urban public space is a product of contestations by various actors. This paper focuses on the conflict between local level government and beggars to address the questions: How and why do government actors refuse or allow beggars access to public space? How and why do beggars appropriate public space to receive alms and adapt their strategies? How does this contestation contribute to the trends of urban public space in today’s China? Taking the Southern metropolis of Guangzhou as a case study, I argue that beggars contest expulsion from public space through begging performances. Rising barriers of public space require higher investment in these performances, taking even more resources from the panhandling poor. The trends of public order are not unidirectional, however. Beggars navigate between several contextual borders composed by China’s religious renaissance; the discourse on deserving, undeserving, and dangerous beggars; and the moral legitimacy of the government versus the imagination of a successful, “modern,” and “civilised” city. This conflict shows the everyday production of “spaces of representation” by government actors on the micro level where economic incentives merge with aspirations for political prestige.
Stefan Al is an associate professor of urban design at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the editor of Factory Towns of South China: An Illustrated Guidebook.
Countless Chinese villages have been engulfed by modern cities. They no longer consist of picturesque farms and fengshui groves, but of high-rise buildings so close to each other that they create dark claustrophobic alleys — jammed with dripping air-conditioners, hanging clothes, caged balconies and bundles of buzzing electric wires, and crowned with a small strip of daylight, known as “thin line sky.” At times, buildings stand so close to each other they are dubbed “kissing buildings” or “handshake houses” — you can literally reach out from one building and shake hands with your neighbor.
Although it is easy to see these villages as slums, a closer look reveals that they provide an important, affordable, and well-located entry point for migrants into the city. They also offer a vital mixed-use, spatially diverse and pedestrian alternative to the prevailing car-oriented modernist-planning paradigm in China. Yet most of these villages are on the brink of destruction, affecting the homes of millions of people and threatening the eradication of a unique urban fabric.
Villages in the City argues for the value of urban villages as places. To reveal their qualities, a series of drawings and photographs uncover the immense concentration of social life in the dense structures, and provide a peek into residents’ homes and daily lives. Essays by a number of experts offer a deeper understanding of the topic, and help imagine how reinstating the focus on the village could lead to a richer, more variegated pathway of urbanization.
Review by Zachary Spicer, a PhD Candidate at The University of Western Ontario: Kevin Ward, Researching the city: A guide for students (2013), Sage Publishing.
Over the past decade, urban research and the study of cities have increasingly become inter-disciplinary in focus, now claimed as the domain of geographers, political scientists, economists, historians, anthropologists and sociologists. Departments of urban studies have popped up at dozens, if not hundreds, of universities worldwide. Urban studies journals attract hundreds of quality submissions every year and thousands of readers, while urban studies associations are amongst the fastest growing academic groups. Needless the say, the city is now not only a unit of analysis, but the focus of an emerging discipline. With the growing interest in urban studies, it is time that students hoping to study the city receive a proper methodological primer. Kevin Ward’s edited volume, Researching the City, seeks to do just that.
Researching the City is an interesting and useful tool for students hoping to conduct quality research on urban phenomena. Ward’s volume is intended to help students at the dissertation stage and essentially lays out the purpose, direction and expected outcomes, along with the advantages and disadvantages, methodological approaches. He focuses on eight different approaches: archival research, interviews, ethnography, questionnaires, linguistic and discourse analysis, diary research, GIS and photography and video work. In each chapter, the authors carefully outline how each approach has been used, how they are designed and what one might expect in terms of results. In several chapters the authors draw from past work and personal experience and very candidly demonstrate methodological intricacies that may not be detailed elsewhere.