Geographical Thought and the City in China

CC-portraitAsia Environments Research Hub, University of Melbourne

Theoretical Territory: Geographical Thought and the City in China
Professor Carolyn Cartier

5:30pm-7pm, Wednesday 23 November, 2016
Evan Williams Theatre, Richard Berry Building, G03, Monash Road, The University of Melbourne

From imperial cities to local temples and common houses, Asian landscapes demonstrate discerning placements and diagnostic spatial practices whose symbolisms continue to inflect contemporary geographies. Among these, however, new cities in China would appear more often to challenge local history in favor of economic exuberance and global reach. Where the rush to document increasingly urban China finds expansive extent, diversity of forms and proliferation of images, this talk suggests how portrayals of such maximal aesthetics bely the reality that defining the Chinese city remains under constitutional power to change state space through the administrative divisions or xingzheng quhua 行政区划 – from establishing new cities to merging and disappearing others. The Chinese Communist Party has also evolved ‘model city’ programs that continue Mao era models used to idealize and implement socialist practices and political thought. In response, theoretical understandings of territory contribute to co-situating such apparently disparate lines of inquiry as the visual landscape and built environment, party-state governance and debates over the role of the state and the market in China’s ongoing transformation. In reflection on the unprecedented instantiation of the city as the intermediate echelon of state and society in China, this discussion makes a case for the pivotal role of historical state practices in China’s contemporary urban process.

Carolyn Cartier (BA, MA, PhD University of California, Berkeley) is a professor of geography and China studies at the University of Technology Sydney. Her recent research focuses on the urban administrative divisions in China and topics in the politics of culture and consumerism in China and Hong Kong. She is chief investigator of ‘The Geography of Power in China: Urban Expansion and Administrative Empire’, a collaboration with the Centre for Research on the Administrative Divisions in China, funded by the Australian Research Council. Collaborative scholarship includes contributions to the China Story Yearbook and serving as editor of the forthcoming Debates Forum on the idea of gentrification in Asia for The International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Her current monograph projects are ‘Inside Territory: Cities and the Party-state in China’ and ‘The Civilised City Manual’, an alternative design book.

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