China Urban: Ethnographies of Contemporary Culture
Li Zhang, Tad Ballew, Susan Brownell, Robert Efird, Ellen Hertz, Lisa Hoffman, Sandra Hyde, Lida Junghans, Louisa Schein
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'China Urban' is an ethnographic account of China’s cities and the place that urban space holds in China’s imagination. In addition to investigating this nation’s rapidly changing urban landscape, its contributors emphasize the need to rethink the very meaning of the “urban” and the utility of urban-focused anthropological critiques during a period of unprecedented change on local, regional, national, and global levels.
Through close attention to everyday lives and narratives and with a particular focus on gender, market, and spatial practices, this collection stresses that, in the case of China, rural life and the impact of socialism must be considered in order to fully comprehend the urban. Individual essays note the impact of legal barriers to geographic mobility in China, the proliferation of different urban centers, the different distribution of resources among various regions, and the pervasive appeal of the urban, both in terms of living in cities and in acquiring products and conventions signaling urbanity. Others focus on the direct sales industry, the Chinese rock music market, the discursive production of femininity and motherhood in urban hospitals, and the transformations in access to healthcare.
'China Urban'will interest anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, and those studying urban planning, China, East Asia, and globalization.
income and time to take advantage of the new products and experiences available in the urban arena. Social debates on these points were common. When graduates’ expectations and desires were too high in comparison with their actual abilities, people used the expression yan gao shou di, which meant literally that ‘‘the eyes were high and the hands were low.’’ A personnel director at a large joint venture explained that ‘‘the ones who just graduated don’t understand society well enough. They think
they have a lot of ability and can find satisfying work. That is a mistaken thought. They have some culture and knowledge, but they are not necessarily good workers. Their cultural or educational level (wenhua) might be high, but perhaps they are not good workers. . . . We need to see if their wenhua can become profitable, but they don’t understand this.’’ This enterprise translated the competence of the employee into the ability to make money for the company: one form of capital could be turned
interpersonal relations and gossip often associated with older state-run units. While in the Maoist era self-reliance referred to a national goal of political and economic self-su≈ciency, in the 1990s it referred to an emphasis on individual ability and independence. In addition to being tangled in notions of success and ability, graduates’ Guiding College Graduates to Work 57 critiques were enmeshed in tangible issues of their future lives. Settling their hukou in a desirable location was
however, an establishment had to have an event to list. Thus, the paper not only helped draw customers to music performances, but it also constituted something of a rationale for having performances in the first place. A second type of yaogun performance space to emerge in the mid1990s was the commercial event. In this context, rock bands served as an accessory to the marketing of a consumer product or pastime, which often had explicit Western associations. As with the foregoing cafe/bar and
early-twentieth-century Shanghai, Gail Hershatter suggests that prostitution can be read as both an occupation for urban women and a metaphor for how Chinese urbanites discuss their fears about the future. She says: ‘‘Prostitution was not only a changing site of work for women but also a metaphor, a medium of articulation in which the city’s changing elites and emerging middle classes discussed their problems, fears, agendas, and visions. . . . prostitution was understood as a source of urbanized