thinking about what it means that Shenzhen must needs be constantly renewed…

Yes, this is another happy collaboration with Jonathan Bach. Chapter from Neue Städte: Vom Project Der Moderne Our Authentisierung, ed. by Andreas Ludwig.

90s nostalgia

I walked Nanshan Road, from Daxin to the Shekou suburbs via one or two side roads. Below, impressions of “Old Nanshan,” which was built during the late 80s and early 90s, now appears highly nostalgic–the narrow roads, the shade trees, and mom and pop shops.

how do shenzheners map covid elsewhere?

A friend from northern China once said (and I’m paraphrasing a long ago memory of Shenzhen, circa 1995), “If you want to see Chinese culture, go to Beijing, Xi’an or Shanghai. Even Tibet has more culture than Shenzhen.”

Her pointed point was: if you’re doing cultural anthropology (and I was!), go to a Chinese city with actual culture. Even the ethnic minorities have culture. Shenzhen, not so much. In fact, she also explained that Taiwan felt more ‘Chinese’ than Shenzhen did. When asked to elaborate, she explained that in Taipei, she had been able to speak Mandarin. In contrast, in Guangdong it was difficult to find people who willingly spoke Mandarin, let alone fluently.

Of course, nearly thirty years (!!!) later, Shenzhen has come to represent China in ways that Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai do not. Moreover, Shenzhen is often held up as the most open of the first-tier four (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen). Shenzhen isn’t China’s past, my friends assure me, but its future, which is why, Shenzhen’s response to Covid-elsewhere is worth noting. How are Shenzheners positioning themselves and their city vis-a-vis perceived failures of Covid management in Shanghai?

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the village hack residency

Long ago, when Handshake 302 was in Baishizhou and Baishizhou was the city’s most icon urban village, we ran a residency program. The first iteration of the residency was “Village Hack.” Several years ago, I reflected on the program and what it taught us about how Shenzheners were formed (paper can be downloaded, below).

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what water did you drink?

On Tuesday, September 11, 2018, Handshake 302 sent out a call for fifteen participants to join the first chapter of “Urban Flesh and Bones: Rediscovering Shenzhen’s Cultural Geography” series of walking tours. This chapter is called “What water did you drink?” and looked at how infrastructural relationships–pipes and container ports, for example–have replaced more immediate relationships–wells and small docks–in the local cultural geography. Kind of esoteric topic for a walking tour, but in less than an hour, the event was already completely booked! Who knew Shenzhen residents were so interested in esoteric takes on the city’s cultural geography? By Thursday afternoon, however, we were worried, would super typhoon Mangkhut land on Saturday, forcing us to cancel the event? However, the weather gods were with us, and Saturday morning was bright sun and blue skies—a perfect day for exploring the Shenzhen’s cultural history from the perspective of “water.” Continue reading