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Workshop: Chinese Urbanities - Relations between Space and Society

Sep 29, 2017 - Sep 30, 2017

When we talk about urbanity, we need to engage in qualitative modes of description and analysis. Urbanization has to be understood not only as a reconfiguration of built space, but also as a far-reaching change in its social fabric. Studies of China’s rapid urbanization during the last 30 years often emphasize its impressive quantitative aspects: The velocity of development, economic superlatives, and mega-urban areas are assumed to characterize this ‘urban revolution.’ Yet, how can we understand the shifts in the reciprocal relationship between urban space and urban society?

How does Chinese society change with and through urban space? Which actors play a role in the negotiations and processes that are involved in the production of space? How is space used and appropriated in everyday life, and, vice-versa, how do spatial formations influence the “urban way of life” (Louis Wirth)? On a more abstract level: Can we analyze urbanity in China with the existing theoretical toolkit of urban studies, or do we have to resort to describing uniquely Chinese urbanities?

This workshop focuses on the reciprocal relationships between space and society in smaller and bigger Chinese cities since the beginning of the reform and opening policies of the late 1970s. We welcome contributions from a broad range of disciplines and the participation of an interested audience. Thereby, we hope to provide a forum for dialogue between urban studies and research on China.


Day One: Friday, September 29

12:00-12:40         Registration & reception

12:45-13:00         Introduction and Welcome: Lisa Melcher (FU Berlin), Ryanne Flock (FU Berlin, GU FFM)


13:00-15:15         Panel I: Urban theory or how to approach China’s cities

                          Discussant: Helmut Berking (TU Berlin)


Bettina Gransow (FU Berlin):

“Bewitched by the History behind the Walls” – Robert Park and the Arc of Urban Sociology from Chicago to China

Jascha Grübel (ETH Zürich), Tanja Schweinberger (University of Geneva):

Do we need more “Sex, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll”? A Case study analysis of Urbanities in an Authoritarian Context

Xiaoxue Gao, Lea Rothmann (TU Berlin):

Village-in-the-city, urban or rural? Two perspectives on the urbanity of Caochangdi

Josefine Fokdal (Stuttgart University):

Embodiment of the urban. A case study of three generations in the mega city of Guangzhou

15:15-15:45         Coffee Break

15:45-17:30         Panel II: Dwelling and the urban way of life

                          Discussant: Lars Meier (Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main)


Ye Liu (NY School for Social Research):

The Ghost of Communist Residential Architecture: A Growing Tension in Chinese Urban Space

Lin Hierse, Lea Abstiens (HU Berlin):

Making themselves at home. Ideas and strategies of home used by the mobile young in their living spaces. A film- and interview-based qualitative study in Berlin and Shanghai

Martin Minost (EHESS Paris):

The Convergence of urbanities between China and the West in Thames Town, Shanghai. The social construction of a British architectural style residential area by its inhabitants


17:30-17:45         Conclusion of Day One

Informal closure of the evening


Day Two: Saturday, September 30

9:30-11:15           Panel III: China’s new urbanites and mechanisms of exclusion

                          Discussant: Ruth Achenbach (GU FFM)


Jun Chu (Göttingen University):

From Grassroots to Volunteer: Urban Citizenship in Transformation and Contested Social Spaces of Migrants. A Case Study in Hangzhou

Willy Sier (Amsterdam University):

White-Collar Hustling. Chinese Rural Graduates on the Post-reform Professional Labour Market

Kimiko Suda (FU Berlin):

The figure of the “Ant” in China’s discourse about social mobility and urban space

11:15-12:00         Lunch and Coffee Break

12:00-13:45         Panel IV: From social to physical construction of urbanities

                          Discussant: Silke Steets (Leipzig University)


Madlen Kobi (Università della Svizzera Italiana (Lugano)):

Space-making, Materiality and Thermal Comfort in Ürümqi, Xinjiang, P. R. China

Xiaohong Tan (Kassel University):

Institutional Innovation of Urban Regeneration in South China: Experimenting and Learning -- the Examples of Guangzhou and Shenzhen

Pascal Honisch (Universiy of Vienna):

“Bigger city, bigger life”: Urban Ethnography and the local legacy of World EXPO 2010

13:45-14:15         Discussion and conclusion of the workshop

The workshop is organized by Ryanne Flock (Modern East Asian Studies, Goethe Universität Frankfurt / Sinologie, Freie Universität Berlin) and Lisa Melcher (Graduate School of East Asian Studies, Freie Universität Berlin) with cooperation of GEAS

Time & Location

Sep 29, 2017 - Sep 30, 2017

Room 2.2059 (Holzlaube)
Freie Universität Berlin
Fabeckstr. 23-25
14195 Berlin