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

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.

remembered origins

For those who haven’t visited the Shekou Museum of Reform and Opening, it’s worth a trip if only to check out where the story begins. All stories of the Special Economic Zone begin with Deng Xiaoping, however, the historical problems that Deng Xiaoping is said to have solve differ from museum to museum. At the Shenzhen Museum of History, for example, Deng Xiaoping solves the historic problem of colonialism. In contrast, at the Shekou Museum of Reform and Opening, he solves the social problems that were caused by political mistakes–famine during the Great Leap Forward and relative poverty during the Cultural Revolution.

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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

book of changes ep. 4

In this episode of Shenzhen Book of Changes, we’re visiting Ms. Cai, who rents a stall in the Dongmen Textile Market. Several years ago, she migrated to Shenzhen from a small city in northern Hubei to be closer to her daughter. She possessed the tenacity and business savvy to start up a small business in this bustling city of migrants.

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