thinking through old maps…

I’ve been thinking about unexpected outcomes, specifically how mapping practices shape geopolitical imaginaries. So, I’m uploading four maps to make a highly speculative point: The Sino-British buffer zone has been a long time coming and like many contemporary boundaries it is an artifact of colonial institutions, including mapping practices. The way the British mapped Hong Kong included the area that today we think of as the Shenzhen inner districts (Luohu, Futian, and Nanshan) and was once known as “the Special Economic Zone.” For a more detailed development of this argument check out the article I wrote with Viola WAN Yan, “Shen Kong: Cui_Bono.Continue reading

what’s up with “10,000 villages”?

The latest Vanke endeavor is called 万村 or “10,000 Villages,” which is a pun on the first character for Vanke (万科). Basically, Vanke has been busy demolishing and upgrading villages around China. According to Vanke founder and former CEO, “10,000 Villages” is a work of the heart. And yet. Now that 10,000 Villages has come to Shenzhen, there has been an outcry against upgrading urban villages because the effect is to eliminate the cheapest accommodations, forcing those who live there to leave the village and find housing elsewhere. Of course, there aren’t many housing options for someone who can only afford the cheapest housing in a unrennovated urban village.

One of the more interesting developments in this ongoing outrage has been the “Open Letter to Foxconn Staff,” which petitions by Foxconn for raises because employees can no longer afford to live in the upgraded villages. In fact, even monthly raise of 100-300 yuan can have serious consequences for workers’ wellbeing. For many, the increase in rent is a significant portion of the money they have been saving or sending home. In a nutshell, despite Wang Shi’s confidence game that the 10,000 Villages project is making China a warmer, better housed place, in Shenzhen the facts suggest otherwise.

taste of home…

…another episode of Shenzhen Book of Changes is online. Learn about the wonderful tastes at Amo Congee Restaurant!

quibbling, but…

I’ve just realized that all of Xi Jinping’s announcements refer to deepening “reform (改革).” Here’s the thing. Shenzhen has been about reform and opening (改革开放). I know. Quibble, quibble. But. I suddenly realized I wasn’t paying enough attention to the words used. And this in a country where words are serious politics. We were warned about the aggressive closing down of ideological alternatives, but because my eyes glazed over (from propaganda overload) when I got to “reform” in announcements, I unconsciously supplied the “opening” as if we were doing more of the same.

go home, young cadre!

Neo-Confucianism continues to show up in unexpected places. Most recently, cadres are told that “going home for dinner is honorable.” Of note, with the window and the parked car outside the window, “home” suddenly seems uncannily US suburban. I know, inquiring minds continue to wonder: just how “American” is the Chinese Dream?

Handshake 302 “Coral Garden: Overlooked Contributions” Curatorial Workshop

People agree that art is important to cultivating a creative society, however, there is less agreement about how art enhances creativity. At Handshake 302, we believe that art praxis does not emphasize making something new, but rather emphasizes using materials already at hand in new ways. This is a slight but important difference. We are interested in the creative process more than we are interested in creative products. In fact, artists are simultaneously curious and pragmatic, asking a simple question: what can I do with this? Continue reading

post-baishizhou, what’s the plan?

Yesterday, I visited the former Tanglang Industrial Park, which has been rebranded as  集悦城 (SoFunLand), a residential area for young workers. The first floor of the factories have been rented out for commerce and the second to fourth (or sixth) floors have been retrofitted as dormitories. This, we are told, is the future of post-Baishizhou downtown; young migrants can live in the dorms until they secure housing elsewhere. Continue reading