The History of Urban-Rural Relations in the 20th Century: An international colloquium

Jun 7, 2016 | 9:00 AM - Jun 9, 2016 | 5:00 PM


Sponsored by the Center for Research on Shanghai History, East China Normal University (华东师范大学上海史研究中心) and the Harvard-Yenching Institute

In contemporary China, government-promoted urbanization has swept through the country, with real estate development serving as a constant engine of urban agglomeration. At the same time, across the country centuries-old villages are being rapidly bulldozed, with residents migrating from villages that have been inhabited for thousands of years. Urban and rural landscapes have clearly undergone enormous changes, and the flow of inhabitants between urban and rural areas has reached a new high. Each year around the time of the Spring Festival, one can witness China’s massive, holiday travel-related migration. Over 3.7 billion passenger trips were made during the most recent Spring Festival travel season, including travel by hundreds of millions of migrant workers and tens of millions of rural youth studying in cities, as well as by other opportunity-seeking youth adrift in cities, individuals seeking medical treatment, scavengers, etc. And among urbanites we can see a new appetite for a form of rural tourism known as nongjiale农家乐, with members of the urban creative class and travelers keen on visiting or even settling down in these rural villages. Present day urban-rural relations in China are constantly being reshaped in unprecedented ways. These kinds of changes are not necessarily unique to China and are also emerging in many other countries, although the driving forces may differ.

Given the profound changes to urban-rural relations in the twentieth century, the Center for Research on Shanghai History at East China Normal University and the Harvard-Yenching Institute will hold an international colloquium in June 2016 to engage in an in-depth discussion of the issues. Academic papers will be publicly solicited on topics including not only the history of changes in 20th C. Chinese urban-rural relations, but also empirical research on the historical experience of urban-rural relations in other countries, as well as papers on theoretical analysis. Examining issues in China through a comparative perspective of global history is one of the main aims of the conference.

From the early twentieth century, when cities stood like isolated islands dotting a sea of countryside, to today’s rural villages surrounded by tidal waves of urbanization, urban and rural areas are seemingly inextricably entwined. These topics are of great interest to scholars of social history, demographic history, environmental history, political history, economic history, and cultural history, and transcending urban-rural barriers will be helpful for reflecting on the issues.

Working languages: Chinese and English