Unravelling Violence Among the Underclass in China

ANU China Seminar Series

Unravelling Violence Among the Underclass in China: the Case of Chengguan and Street Vendors in Guangzhou
Xu Jianhua

16:00 to 17:30, Thursday, 27 July 2017
Seminar Room A, China in the World Building (188), Fellows Lane, ANU, Canberra

It is increasingly recognized that violent crime tends to occur among the underclass. Existing literature has explored how subculture contributes to the occurrence of violence among the underclass while social structural factors are under-explored. With data collected from participant observation, systematical social observation, interviews and content analysis of newspaper reports about chengguan and street vendors in Guangzhou, China, this research explores how social structure affects the pattern and production of violence. We found that chengguan assistants were undeniably the majority of perpetrators of violence towards street vendors while the official chengguan seldom directly got involved. While local governments attributed the chengguan violence to the low quality of individual chengguan assistants, we argue that unequal division of labor in chengguan system also affects the pattern of violence between chengguan and street vendors. Since both chengguan assistants and street vendors belong to the urban underclass, this research enriches the understanding of why violence tends to occur among the underclass.

Jianhua Xu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Macau. He is also an honorary fellow in the Center for Criminology at the University of Hong Kong, and an external member of the Pearl River Delta Research Center, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. His research interests include sociology of crime and deviance, crime and victimization related to rural-to-urban migrant workers in China, policing, victimology, and urban sociology. His recent publications have appeared in The British Journal of Criminology, Theoretical Criminology, and Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, among others. Jianhua is currently working on several projects including the problem of missing children in China, the violence between urban management staff (chengguan) and street vendors in China, and crime and policing banners/posters in China.