The Making of the Village Middle Class: New Living Landscapes and Social Subjectivities in Chinese Peri-urban Villages

Authors: Jiong Wu*, Syracuse University
Topics: China, Landscape, Cultural Geography
Keywords: China, peri-urban villages, urban-rural landscape, middle class, settlement, home culture
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Marriott Ballroom Salon 2, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The post-socialist marketization, state-owned cooperation privatization, and the flourishing private enterprises gave rise to the contemporary Chinese middle class. Due to their highly complex and unstable characteristics, scholars have argued the formulation of the Chinese middle class is closely involved in the spatial and social production of the Chinese xiaoqu (gated residential community) and private home ownership. The spatial and cultural features take up the core of Chinese middle class formation, in addition to their occupations and social backgrounds. While agreeing with this analytical standpoint, this paper highlights a largely understudied locale for Chinese middle class formulation – the peri-urban villages. Due to the devaluation of white-collar labor and soaring city housing price, parts of the Chinese middle class have to live in the peri-villages renal housing rather than the xiaoqu apartments in the city. I call them “village middle class”. To fill the gaps and offer insights of the village middle class, this paper explores their emerging living landscape. Employing ethnographic cases studies in Guangzhou peri-urban villages, I examine how the new village rental housing typologies, home cultures, living spaces, and social norms are mutually shaped. I argue that- through manipulating their living spaces and lifestyles –the village middle class has generated their unique social subjectivities and community organization approaches. They both question and provide alternatives to the homeowner centered middle class formation mode which consequences the social and spatial segregated living landscape in contemporary China.

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