SZ8X80208//The Myriad Transformations//City on the Fill: Oyster Beds

By 2003, the oyster farmers who worked the coastline that would be reclaimed as Ocean City were removed so that more coastline could be reclaimed. At the cusp of that transformation, I walked the coast that was still littered with oyster shells, sanpans, and poles that had been used for fishing nets. An old border tower stood, unused for years until it would be occupied by squatters after the next phase of reclamation.

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Over Christmas 2007, I walked the Shekou coastline just before it would be cleared out for reclamation and development. The images of a working coastline hint at the society that had been buried beneath truckloads of earth and architectural debris.

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It is, of course, tempting to thinking of these images as historical snapshots and they are, but not in the sense of “original society.” By the 21st century, the Shenzhen oyster industry was already organized through hometown. The Shajing Chens and their associated villages still controlled much of the PRD oyster trade and the oyster beds, however, the workers were all from elsewhere. These unregistered migrants lived and worked in squats that were built on the old new coastline, which had been reclaimed in the 1980s. In other words, although Nanshan District shut down the oyster industry circa 2006, like all measures it was enforced over a few years, but still before we noticed that we had been living in a different city.

This time lag between announcements and completion has me wondering about how time is experienced by differently positioned actors. If, for example, you have been working in urban renewal since 2005, then it must feel like these transformations take a seriously long time. However, if you have been living in these structures, the final eviction and demolition comes sudden and unexpected.

So. Today I’m thinking about the time lags of demolition and eviction and how our roles in the process can have us thinking either “finally” or “why was there no warning?”

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