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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poverty isn’t a sign of moral depravity…

…or incompetence or sexual deficiency (if male) or too much testosterone (if female). And yet. The city’s ideology continues to promote masculinity and personhood as signs of the moral and deserving self, rather than effects of a class system that remains predicated on rural-urban divisions. Indeed, Shenzhen illustrates that even when rural people have become part of the urban prolitariate they can be ruralized with respect to the city’s more urbane classes. Continue reading

the shenzhen metro museum… now online. For those interested in the maps and insights that we produced for the “mini-wiki” those images and ideas are also online. I’m working on getting the English versions up online. In the meantime, enjoy!

yoga studio

just a brief note on the closing of my yoga studio. several years ago, the studio opened a posh studio in zhuzilin. at the turn of the year, they moved from zhuzilin to chegongmiao. the studio was not as upscale and many of the older clients left. however, the teachers were good and i continued. last week, we learned that the studio, moving to a converted factory notwithstanding, was still loosing money and would close on june 30. however, saturday, june 21, i went to find that the doors were locked. the workers who had done the renovations were there trying to get their money, which apparently the owners had not paid. indeed, for the past few weeks, the head of the construction crew had been sitting in the lobby, glaring. now i know why: the owners have clearly been giving him the run-around. anyway, tonight i’m going to another high-end yoga studio to see how it feels. i do feel less likely to invest in a longterm membership…

this vanishing is a familiar theme in shenzhen businesses. however, i’ve always treated it as a phenomenon somewhere between fact and urban myth; one hears about it regularly, but actual encounters with vanishing servers and clients are rare. indeed, this is the first time that it has touched me so directly. one of my friends clearly has more experience in these matters than i do. as soon as she heard the news, she went to the studio and cashed in her card for merchandise. then again, she can wear local sizes. i stuff myself into the extra larges and still feel an unpleasant squeeze. one of my classmates had a yoga mat and several outfits locked inside. she’s not sure if she’ll be able to get them back. in the meantime, the five of us who showed up for class exchanged phone numbers, promising to report if we had news or a new studio.

also, how can you not love the shenzhen metro website? other metro webstes provide information on schedule and stops; shenzhen gives updates on the state of construction! (right now the city is building three lines.)

shekou upgrades

demolished building, taizi street, shekou

went for lunch at a favorite italian restaurant and what did we see? the rage for renovation continues to transform the city. along taizi road, the main strip in front of seaworld, three areas are under re-construction: the cluster of sanyo factories from the early eighties is being turned into a creative industries center. they have just begun removing walls, but it may in fact turn into another area of glass and black walls. across the street from seaworld is times plaza, where the old sushi restaurant has been torn down. architecturally it was relatively recent and boasted a waterwall; the building was glass and water fell down the sides filling a pool (moat?) that surrounded the building. further east, one of the old office buildings has been torn down, and with it the shops that used to sell cantonese-sized faux couture– in u.s. sizes i wear an 8 or medium, in the world of cantonese-sized faux couture i am an extra, extra-large. also, another building that has not yet been demolished has nevertheless been repainted bright yellow. for the interested, pictures, here.

neon update: it occurs to me that the neon lights are a good way of upgrading without demolishing buildings or painting them bright yellow. although i kind of like the bright buildings that are starting to show up. the shekou china communications building is a late eighties early nineties examplar of state-of-the-art. just recently it has been caged. at night, and from a distance, the building tower is now a relatively clear television that broadcasts commercials and public service announcements… there’s another downtown television is strictly advertising, lately l’oreal for men and cars…

shekou china communications building and moon

also, a graffiti update: someone is still at work re-covering walls.

shekou graffiti