Book Talk: The End of the Village
A talk by Dr. Nick R. Smith, Assistant Professor of Architecture and Urban Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University.
Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, China has vastly expanded its urbanization processes in an effort to reduce the inequalities between urban and rural areas. Centered on the mountainous region of Chongqing, which serves as an experimental site for the country’s new urban development policies, The End of the Village: Planning the Urbanization of Rural China analyzes the radical expansion of urbanization and its consequences for China’s villagers. It reveals a fundamental rewriting of the nation’s social contract, as villages that once organized rural life and guaranteed rural livelihoods are replaced by an increasingly urbanized landscape dominated by state institutions.
Smith’s talk will focus on villagers’ responses to this process of rapid urbanization and their resulting displacement from the village. Prevented from engaging in overt protest, villagers expressed their resistance to development by talking about ghosts, a form of social critique rooted in the shared ritual practices of Chinese folk religion. As urbanization and demolition progressed, ghost talk was both omnipresent and elusive, enabling a socially efficacious mode of expressing discontent while evading the political discipline of the party–state.
More about Dr Smith:
Nick R. Smith is an interdisciplinary scholar of urban transformation and planning, with a regional focus on rapid urbanization in Asia. His first book, The End of the Village: Planning the Urbanization of Rural China, ethnographically explores an epochal shift in Chinese urban policy that aims for the near-total urbanization of China’s territory and population. His current book project investigates the origins of China’s rapid urbanization in the 1980s, with a particular focus on oral histories of the Shekou Industrial Zone. He is also currently expanding his research beyond mainland China to include industrial policy and urbanization in the Sinosphere, comparative studies of urban–rural relations in Asia, and the building of model towns and the history of futurity in Southeast Asia.
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