Does Right to the City Travel to China? A Methodological Inquiry about the study of Planetary Illiberalism

Authors: Ceren Ergenc*, Xi'an Jiaotong - Liverpool University
Topics: Political Geography, China, Urban Geography
Keywords: China, Right to the City, urban activism, planetary illiberalism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 4:00 PM / 5:40 PM
Room: Studio 3, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Right to the city (RTC) gained worldwide attention as both a scholarly concept and an advocacy tool when it was revisited it in the early 2000s. RTC was referred to in many articles on urban research across the world, and was actively used in many urban advocacy struggles in geographies varying from San Francisco to Istanbul.
The exception is China, a hotbed of planetary – illiberal – urbanism. While Western-educated scholars of contemporary China do refer to the term not so infrequently, it is used significantly less in the Chinese language scholarship on urban studies. Besides, while urban activism is one of the more successful forms of rights advocacy in China, we do not see RTC being frequently employed in activist discourses either.
What are the reasons behind such lack of reference to a globally accepted term within the otherwise globally connected activist networks in China? Is it a lack of access to the relevant literature? Is it a tacit decision to avoid the term? What is it substituted with? How does the choice of terminology shape urban advocacy in China?
In order to answer these questions, this ongoing study conducts a discourse analysis on the self-descriptions and campaign materials of urban advocacy platforms across China. Additionally, an attitude survey targets the same informant population to inquire about the motivations behind the choice of terminology.
The broader aim of this study is to discuss the global applicability of analytical tools in understanding globalized processes such as planetary illiberalism.

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