Universiade facelifts continue and, along certain paths in the city – the global, neoliberal, middle class paths – one walks through rubble under tarps and past construction sites. Nevertheless, several steps off those intended tracks, life continues undisturbed by visions of what Shenzhen leaders think foreigners / outsiders should see. The effect of this selective construction is to further isolate pockets of working class ordinariness and transform it into unsightly poverty. In fact, one of the reasons urban villages are as such is because the city grew up around them, closing them in, and distorting their relationship to greater landscape. Thirty odd years ago, a village was a tight cluster of single story story houses and narrow paths in the midst of rice paddies, streams, orchards, and small docks that opened to either the Pearl River or the South China Sea; today an urban village is a tight cluster of three to eight story rentals that hum in the shadows of thirty story apartment complexes and postmodern skyscrapers even as the sea recedes.
Below, a walk through Dongmen, Hubei New Village, and Old Luohu work unit neighborhoods, begging the question: if what we see is what we get, why aren’t we learning to look more deeply?