In Shenzhen, China, the term “urban village” refers to a vernacular urban typology that has emerged out of village settlements that no longer, or only partially, exist, and have expanded as different historical subjects converted farmland into industrial parks, laid roads, installed infrastructure, and constructed buildings. Elsewhere in the world, these would probably be referred to as a working class neighborhood, rather than a “village”, but in Shenzhen the preservation of village terminology allows us to explore what I call a vernacular geography of “modernized”, “urbanized”, and “everyday” spaces within a larger discourse about Shenzhen’s history, its development trajectories, and governmental interventions in its built environment. This talk focuses on my experience co-curating an experimental art and ethnographic space called the “Handshake 302 Village Hack Residency” that engages the living history of the urban village of Baishizhou and Shenzhen’s history more generally. Our projects exploit the semiotic discrepancies between art space programs and low cost housing to provide an accessible sociology of an urban village, and show how the city’s definition, rezoning, and rebuilding of these neighborhoods simultaneously evaluates the history of urban modernity (and the ordinary people who made it) and posits the city’s future (and the people who are welcome there).
Sponsored by the Global Studies Program and the India China Institute, The New School.