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A Different Place in the Making

The Everyday Life Practices of Chinese Rural Migrants in Urban Villages

Yan Yuan

The last three decades have seen dramatic changes in Chinese cities. While many tend to read these changes as the result of institutional reforms, macro planning, and top-down development, the author of this study focuses on the undercurrent at the bottom, from the margin, and without voice. Based on immersive fieldwork, she explores how a different place was created through the everyday life practices of rural migrants in two Chinese urban villages. Readers are invited to dive into a small, marginal, yet intricate and vibrant neighbourhood, where thousands of ‘rural outsiders’ found their settlement in the city. In this border space between the rural and the urban, place-making was not merely the government’s redevelopment plan that would sooner or later demolish the whole area, it was also a dynamic process unfolding through people’s everyday doing and living, such as their housing practices, street gathering, boiler house visits, public telephone calls, television consumption, and festival celebration. Featured by its cross-disciplinary horizon and intimate documentation, the present work exhibits an exemplary locale of a ‘progressive sense of place’ in contemporary China and provides original insights in how people’s everyday life acts as an alternative arena of the politics of place-making between multiple forces.
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Chapter 8. A Televised Spring Festival and Its Consumption in the Urban Villages


Chapter 8A Televised Spring Festival and Its Consumption in the Urban Villages

In different social and historical contexts, the meanings of the turning of the year and people’s ways of celebrating the meanings have not always been the same. One recent thrust in this transformation was the participation of modern media technologies in the festival spaces. China is not exempt from this change. Since 1983, a televised form of New Year’s Eve started to enter millions of Chinese households. Watching the live broadcast of the Central China Television (CCTV) Spring Festival Gala Show was aligned with the family reunion dinner, door couplets, and fireworks in constituting the contemporary festivity of Chinese year turning. Compared with the festival activities discussed in the last chapter, the festival practices through broadcasting and viewing posit an unprecedented power in relating the present to the very distant absent and therefore foster the place-making function of the ritual into another realm. The existence of this televised ingredient in the rural migrants’ Chuxi night allows us to understand the social production of their identity and place their urban village settlement practices in the festival context in a further extensive framework. What are the relationships between this televised and centralised form of festival and the Chinese rural migratory subjects? How does this nationwide media event embed in the rural migrants’ festival space? These are the questions I am going to explore in the last chapter of this research.

The marriage between ritual and television...

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