Bargaining For Home: A Case Study of Urban Village Demolition Projects in Beijing


Liu Yiran (Tsinghua University; HYI Visiting Fellow, 2011-12)

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Using the Liulang Zhuang village as a case study, this paper explores how the simplification of state projects contradicts the complex reality of urban villages, how the state legitimates itself in conducting the projects, and how people receive and react to the state’s advocacy. This paper begins by introducing the forming of urban villages and the state’s policy toward them, aiming to show how the state’s simplified version of urban design ignores history, the eco-system and the variety of social experience in the village. In order to legitimate itself, the state uses both “high-modernist” and “collective” ideology, claiming one should sacrifice personal interest for the collect good, which, in this case, is the development of the city. The exiting literature tends to see people as either totally subject to the state’s policy or resisting it. Neither approach explains the situation in urban villages. The empirical data in this study shows that, influenced by ideology, past experience and current policy, people adopt a strategy of “bargaining”, rather than total consent or radical resistance to the state. By allowing room for people to bargain, the state successfully shifts people’s attention from questioning the ideology to how much they can gain. By agreeing to bargain, people gradually lose ground and yield to the state’s projects.

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