It turns out that Covid-19 is good to think if your goal is to understand ‘China’ as imagined, perceived and, of course, enforced. (Winning?) After all, even if there are no countries outside are heads, nevertheless, there are test stations, checkpoints, police, and all sorts of social monitoring. Moreover, how different groups–both at home and abroad–are responding to the lockdown shows up interesting aspects of my experience in Shenzhen. So, I’m providing a round-up of some of the Covid related blogs, essays and books that I’ve been reading to embed Shenzhen’s experience into national and international discourses about biological governance, moral geography and new forms of self expression. And yes, they’re all over the place because we don’t really know how the ground has shifted. Moreover, I find comparison and contrast both necessary and useful because the intellectual and political challenge is to provide rich, on the ground accounts of lived experience within and against political-economic systems that are (to use a harsh neologism) always already glocal–the suffering caused by Covid-19 is universal, but responses to and cultural expressions of pain have been highly specific.
The cartoon caption which comes via the 2022 Shanghai lockdown reads, “Who dares call a meal with pig feet and bear’s claw anything less than a feast? You can’t hide that we’re living in a flourishing age.”
I contributed a chapter to The Emerging Public Realm of the Greater Bay Area: Approaches to Public Space in a Chinese Mega-Region, which was edited by Miodrag Mitrašinović and Timothy Jachna. The book matters, not only because the GBA is one of the world’s largest mega-regions, but also because China seems to be strategically planning and developing its mega-regions. Shenzhen matters in all this because even if the GBA ranks second to the Yangzte River Delta, nevertheless, it is one of the world leaders (and first in China) for patent applications and new industries. In 2018, China Briefing published a brief introduction to China’s three leading mega-regions (YRD, GBA, and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei cluster).
But back to the book! According to the website blurb, The Emerging Public Realm of the Greater Bay Area “assembles diverse approaches to interrogating the forms of public space and the public realm that are emerging in the context of this region’s rapid urban development in the last forty years, bringing together authors from urbanism, architecture, planning, sociology, anthropology and politics to examine innovative ways of framing and conceptualizing public space in/of the Greater Bay Area. The blend of authors’ first-hand practical experiences has created a unique cross-disciplinary book that employs public space to frame issues of planning, political control, social inclusion, participation, learning/education and appropriation in the production of everyday urbanism. In the context of the Greater Bay Area, such spaces and practices also present opportunities for reconfiguring design-driven urban practice beyond traditional interventions manifested by the design of physical objects and public amenities to the design of new social protocols, processes, infrastructures and capabilities.”
In Shenzhen, the tea industry is worth over 1.5 billion USD and is deeply embedded in the local culture. Here tea can be thought of like how wine or fine whiskey is thought of in western countries. The whole process – from purchasing the leaves, to brewing, to drinking – is meant to be savored. Check out Shenzhen Book of Changes:
Playwright and screenwriter, Israel Horowitz is visiting Shenzhen in conjunction with the Fat Bird premiere of his play, Line, which has been performed at the 13th Street Repertory since 1974. We’re excited!
On Saturday, Israel will be giving a free talk about over fifty years creating for the stage and screen. Venue: OCAT B Gallery; Time: 15:00. If you’re in Shenzhen, don’t miss this chance to meet a theater great!
The play will be performed in Chinese on April 5 through April 8, 2016. Venue: Nanshan Cultural Center, small theater. Tickets can be purchased through WeChat or at the door.
How have our parents’ and grandparents’, and their parents’ and grandparents’ sojourns–some forced, some voluntary, and some taken on a whim–shaped the people we have become? It is a quintessentially American question, and yet it resonates in Shenzhen where almost everyone of the city’s 20 million people have migrated here from somewhere else. It also resonates because before the establishment of the Special Zone, emigration–rather than immigration, departure rather than arrival–informed family trajectories. Continue reading →
This afternoon I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the Digging a Hole in China (事件的地貌) exhibition, curated by Venus Lau. the exhibition features a range of works that were produced from the mid-1990s forward, roughly a decade after the idea of land art had been picked up by Chinese artists and only a few years after Deng Xiaoping’s 1992 Southern Tour, where he confirmed that China would continue to liberalize its economy. The stated goal of the exhibition, which positions itself between China and the West is,
[T]o expose and analyze the discrepancies between this genre of work and ‘conventional’ land art understood in the Western-centric art historical context, thereby probing the potential of ‘land’–as a cultural and political concept–in artistic practice.
This week I have been thinking about iterations of the “local” in two sites: the 2015 Shenzhen Hong Kong Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture and the Baishizhou Street Museum. In particular, I’m thinking about the possibility of making connections from “here” to “there” when they hinge on the distance between (a) some outside understanding of what the local might be and (b) what might be interesting to actual locals. The possibility of meaningful dialogue is further complicated when “outsiders” and “locals” are organized by global hierarchies, internal class structures, and unquestioned ideas of what might be intellectually and/or aesthetically engaging. Continue reading →
I’ve decided to try posting weekly reviews; I’ve been busy, but missed the blog. I’m hoping that by scheduling a week in review post, I’ll reach a happy medium. Today, I’m publishing a short review, after today, I will be publishing the week in review on Friday mornings, Beijing standard time, which is conveniently the standard time for the whole country!
Bureaucratic hoop jumping:
Last week to extend my visa, I went to the police department. It is necessary to fill out the forms online, but those forms can only be accessed in the building. However, before I was permitted to enter my data, I had to show one of the officers that my documents were complete. They weren’t, so I went upstairs to make a photocopy. After I filled in the form, online, I took a picture of the screen so that an officer could print out my application by reading the registration number. This is necessary because it is impossible to enter more than one letter (A B C) in the line. Then I got my number and waited. Everything was okay, except that I had to bring my husband to the police department to fill our a guarantee letter that day, other wise I would have to do it again. We persevered and documents were submitted and accepted. Continue reading →
Although China has been strengthening its anti-terrorism campaign over the past year or so, the Shenzhen anti-terrorism campaign is recent. Ideologically, the campaign promotes a Neo-Confucian message of family first–a value that terrorists are purported not to share. Unfortunately, terrorists are more or less consistently represented as Muslim. In fact, the stereotypes used in the campaign are familiar from conversations I’ve had with friends over the past decade, when I have been told that Islam is not a religion but a terrorist organization. More alarmingly, as in the United States, Chinese anti-terrorism feeds anti Muslim sentiments and justifies increasing militarization of public life. Sigh.
Of note: the May 22, 2014 attack (in which men in ski masks jumped out of two vans to attack people in Urumqi) has become the stereotype of terrorist attack in the campaign. The following Inside Story by Aljazeera attempts to understand the increasingly violent situation.