Politicizing everyday urban life: Monumental sculptures in Shanghai

Authors: Jane Zheng*,
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, China
Keywords: urban sculpture, monument, Shanghai, urban landscape, urban entrepreneurialism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Roosevelt 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper examines a thriving and transforming scene of urban monumental sculptures in Shanghai, China. From the perspective of “urban landscape”, this paper interprets the meaning of Shanghai’s urban sculptures to show how publicly accessible spaces and people’s urban daily lives of mundane in this post-colonial world city are ideologically shaped by monumental sculptures. These sculptures play an important part symbolically and politically grounding the power of the ruling party in this city. Extensive empirical work was conducted in the past three years. Participatory observation and interviews with pedestrians, visitors and residents on fifty purposively sampled sculpture sites was conducted. The author also interviewed with all the key government officers in urban planning bureaus on both municipal and strict levels. This paper categorizes monumental sculptures into four types, including monuments of explicit political didacticism, democratized monument, decorative monument and symbolic monument. Functions of these sculptures include deifying the Party’s political leaders and revolutionary heroes through political propaganda, implicitly conveying the values of the Party, or distracting people’s attention away from critical issues of public interests. In this sense, “publicness” or a genuine concern of public interests of the local community is omitted from the apparently colorful sculpture scene in Shanghai. Rather, a variety of monuments has politicized urban spaces and people’s daily lives. Moreover, the paper explores the underlying social impetus and dynamics. It particularly highlights the mechanism of urban planning in formulating this urban scene and characterizes the urban sculpture planning authority in Shanghai.

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