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

Journey to the Northwest

If Cyber City housed the National Capital Region’s elites and their high-culture status, the city’s middling aspirations have taken root just outside the northern edge of Old Delhi. On our final morning of field research, we traced the stubborn history of Delhi’s entrepreneurs on its first metro line. Older metro routes to get people, revolts against it. Placed on broad roads and convenient for construction. With changing technology and demands for metro they are taken tracks and station to people. So more risks in terms of construction. Cut through neighborhoods to build tracks. Red and yellow were first. To get away from politics of naming got exceptions to archaeological laws, land acquisition laws. Making money through real estate. 2010 women only. Indeed, the stations of the metro not only offer a sociology of the living city, but also comprise a catalogue of shifting allegiances, reminding us that Southasia stretches northwest from the capital region into Bangladesh and Afghanistan, hinting at the deep trade networks that once sutured the ancient civilizations of Eurasia and their redeployment toward the adhoc construction of the modern nation state, as well as the ways in which regional histories and cultures meet like opposing currents, creating whirlpools. Most often the whirlpools of everyday life are very small, like when a bathtub drains. But sometimes, maelstroms form and when the wind calms, the survivors wash ashore in another world.

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fuyong new village / bao’an road

It’s instructive to jump off the number 11 subway line, once its passed the airport station. In Bao’an District, the No 11 line runs parallel to Bao’an Road, which delineates the inner border between the older, historic village settlements and their industrial parks. East of Bao’an Road, one heads toward the Pearl River, land reclamation, and scattered reminders of this deeper history. West of Bao’an Road, one heads through large industrial parks toward National expressway G107, which was the road that first connected the original Special Zone to Guangzhou via Songgang (images of a 2008 walk, here). At Nantou Checkpoint, National Highway 107 becomes Shannan Road and a fast track to the inner district real estate boom. Continue reading

scale of gentrification, buji

Gentrification in Shenzhen not only means displacing the working poor, but also rescaling the city. In Buji, the process has just begun and thus the palatable violence of this transformation is more visible than it is in the inner districts, where neoliberal environments have a more polished veneer. The images below highlight the extent to which the construction of massive public infrastructure effectively isolates neighborhoods and privileges car-owners.

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china’s 2011 clinker production capacity

It’s true, in searching for statistics about how much cement has been used in Shenzhen (I keep hoping some social statistically minded engineer will do the calculations), I stumbled across China’s cement web. One of the articles, relevant to aforesaid search, was the clinker production capacity of China’s ten largest cement producers in 2011.

As of Jan 1, 2012, China’s big cement ten are, in order: Hailuo (海螺水泥)、Southern (南方水泥)、China United (中联水泥)、China Resources (华润水泥)、Sinoma (中材集团)、Hebei East (冀东水泥) 、TCC (台泥水泥)、Sunnsy (山水集团)、Huaxin (华新水泥)、and Hongshi (红狮集团). Together they have the capacity to produce just under 581 million tons of clinker, annually. Just how much can be built with all that cement? Well, the Empire State Building weighs in at 370,000 tons. This means that ten Chinese cement factories produce the mass equivalent of 1,570 Empire State Buildings.  Continue reading

Government Re-Contextualizations, or how the plan gets fixed


boxed methane pipe, part of the rennovations on dongbin road

Upgrading continues in Nanshan. This morning we received notice that the Nanshan Bureau of Public Works will begin the second part of its 6 + 1 street scenery renovation project (街景整治工程). All the neon is part of this project, which includes upgrading walls (remember the air-conditioner cages?), planting trees and flowers (have I posted pictures of the wooden pots for methane gas release on Dongbin Street yet?), and replacing old billboards, presumably with new billboards (I know I’ve taken pictures of World of War characters creeping across buildings…) Pictures here.

It’s a very Shenzhen approach to governance: build something. It’s as if the constant construction and reconstruction of space will keep people in their respective places. So, for those of you wondering how renovation functions as a means of governance (and I know you’re out there), I’ve translated part of the brochure we received. What I’d like to call attention to is the history captured in the street names. These street names chart the historic progression of development in Nanshan. Some streets are “old” from before reform, some are “new”, built in close proximity to old centers in the eighties. Some streets speak to reform dreams. Still other streets were laid on landfill more than twenty years after old and new was defined by governmental policy. The renovation project homogonizes all this history, as if the streets appeared together one day, already complete unto themselves, derived from some perfect, omnipotent plan.

街区再造 品质南山
6 + 1城市改造工程是南山区政府继去年对蛇口新街、海月路、学府路、沙河路口、留仙大道、朱光路等六条街道和南海大道(一期)、创业路、沙河西路、东滨路(一期)的景观整治改造之后,对南海大道(二期)、蛇口老街+海昌街、后海大道(南段)、南山大道、南新路、东滨路(二期)、居仙大厦进行改造整治,改造内容包括建筑里面、路面、人行道铺面、广告招牌等。

Street Reconstruction, Quality Nanshan
The 6 + 1 Urban Improvement Project is a continuation of the Nanshan District Government’s street renovation project. Last year, Nanshan renovated the appearences of Shekou New Street, Haiyue Road, Xuefu Road, Shahe Intersection, Liuxian Main Street, Zhuguang Road, Nanhai Main Street (part one), Construction Street, Shahe West Road, and Dongbin Street (part one). This year, Nanshan will renovate Nanhai Main Street (part two), Shekou Old Street + Nanchang Street, Houhai Main Street (southern portion), Nanshan Main Street, New Nan Road, Dongbin Road (part two), and Juxian Building. Renovations include: building interiors, street fronts, sidewalks and storefronts, and billboards.

鲤鱼门: more landfill


gateway to the coast that used to be, liyumen

school has been open almost four weeks and my life is finally settling down. this weekend, i was back on the nantou peninsula and instead of walking along houhai, i walked along the yuehai side. (facing guanzhou, right near the western railway station which connects shenzhen to hunan.)

in the early 1990s, liyumen was a beach front resort area, somewhat modeled after the hong kong fishing port of the same name, where good seafood might be eaten relatively cheaply. the shenzhen version included saunas, and massage parlors, and a very large badmitten court. over the past fifteen years,land reclamation has proceeded and liyumen is now a good half mile inland. however, the land has not yet been developed and is instead used to park and repair container trucks, which transfer goods from nanshan factories to chiwan port, just around what remains of nanshan mountain.

so liyumen constitutes a strange kind of timewarp, both as memorial to what used to be a shenzhen resort area and as a transition between industrial nantou and the new highrises that are being planned, please visit.