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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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