Convenience Stations: Infrastructural Power and Mobility in Northwest China

Authors: Darren Byler*, University of Colorado
Topics: Urban Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Eurasia
Keywords: Convenience, Infrastructural Power, Mobility, Ethnicity and Racialization, Uyghur, Xinjiang, China
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 46
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Since 2014 authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have introduced a "seamless" checkpoint, passcard and face surveillance system that tracks and inhibits the movement of targeted minority citizens while providing "green lanes" and greater feelings of security to system-approved citizens. This system draws on the Maoist legacy of mass revolution, comparative strategies of urban counter-insurgency war and new developments in surveillance technology to produce a new model for population management. This paper explores the valences of these systems to understand the way this techno-political infrastructure system can be seen simultaneously as an engine of job creation, citizen mobilization and flexible confinement. It shows how tens of thousands of auxiliary police, intelligence workers, volunteers in “neighborhood” watch units and targeted minorities build and maintain this system, and the way this everyday labor produces forms of personal investment in policing the system and policing the self. Through this exploration it makes the central argument that the social position and investment of individuals affects the citizen and worker experience of these "convenience" police systems. It further argues that these forms of infrastructural power and citizen mobilization both complement and stand in tension with the more abstract economic functions of this techno-political system as a basic intelligence growth industry and a form of state-fostered venture capitalism, all of which, it argues, are components of a larger "China Model" of development.

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