Practicing the world, practicing the city - Urban explorations in Beijing

Since the beginning of the reforms three decades ago, Beijing has progressively become more urban and more global. With the economic reforms and the gaige kaifang (the opening of the country), the city has been steadily growing in both size and population and an important part of this urbanization process can be observed in the changes of its very own urbanity, as it allows more choices and possibilities for its inhabitants. During Mao’s era, urban life and daily rhythms were essentially defined by work and family activities; similarly, urban spaces were loosely differentiated and mobility, almost inexistent. Along with the reforms came an increasing urban diversity – spatial, social, cultural and functional – that results in a change of city rhythms and urban practices. Hence, social and urban transformations are giving opportunities to individuals to experience different spaces, activities and lifestyles through their daily activities. One of the objectives of this research project is to make visible the transformation of space carried out by citizens. This aspect of urbanization, which is part of day-to-day practices and choices, has indeed a great importance in shaping contemporary Beijing. The first question that I would like to explore in this project is: how, in a rapidly changing environment, do Beijing residents practice the city? How do they get informed about and how do they grasp – or not – the increasing possibilities that the city is offering? In fact, there is an important difference between being aware of the “potential” and actually realising it: this is the reason why I am trying to understand not only how Beijingers perceive their city but also how they actually practice it: which places do they go to? What kind of activities do they do? What are their daily rhythms?

Presented at:
Stadtkolloquium, University College, London, 28-29 jan. 2010

 Record created 2010-11-29, last modified 2018-03-17

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