State Territorialization through Bureaucratic Control: Authoritarian Governance at the Neighborhood Level (“shequ”) in China

Authors: Sarah Tynen*, University of Colorado
Topics: Political Geography, Urban Geography, Development
Keywords: neighborhood, territory, bureaucracy, state control, authoritarian governance
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Studio 3, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Studies on the multi-scalar implications of state bureaucratic control, specifically at the scale of the neighborhood, body, and everyday life, are lacking in territorial studies. By building on the concept of territory as a contested social relation that challenges the state-society dichotomy, this paper explores state territorialization practices as crucial components in shaping everyday life. In particular, it asks: How do citizens experience state bureaucratic power at the neighborhood level in their everyday lives? What is the role of community participation in garnering regime legitimacy? The research draws on 24 months of ethnographic and interview data in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of northwest China. The findings show that the conflict between state control and social membership revolves around the negotiation for territorial control, especially when it comes to struggle for power over minority bodies in nationalist space. In particular, divergent sovereignties over the body, household, and neighborhood in the midst of state control reveal the multi-scalar implications of political conflict. By further understanding the experience of state bureaucratic control in Xinjiang, the linkages between everyday politics and culture expand knowledge about the ways in which the state and political-economic structures influences daily life.

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