Accepted Paper:

Neo-Maoist highrises? - post-displacement space in Chongqing  


Asa Roast (University of Leeds)

Paper short abstract:

This paper reflects upon the construction of high rise housing estates on the edge of Chongqing, South-West China as a space of post-displacement which migrant workers, evicted urban residents and expropriated farmers are displaced to, and the framing of these projects through neo-Maoist rhetorics.

Paper long abstract:

At the height of the rapid urbanisation of the city of Chongqing, South-West China, in 2010, the secretary of the city's Communist Party announced the next stage of the campaign to build a more egalitarian 'Red Chongqing': the construction of 40 million square metres of public housing over the next ten years, to meet the needs of an estimated 8 million extra migrant workers. Subsequent political scandals brough Chongqing's 'neo-Maoist' experiment in local government to an end, but the city's periphery is still dotted with hundreds of high-rise blocks of public housing, a remnant of the city's failed egalitarian promise. This paper is based on twenty months of ethnographic fieldwork in Chongqing, working with the inhabitants of peripheral public housing, and considers the high-rise estates on the edge of Chongqing as a space of post-displacement, to which groups disloded by the region's economic restructuring are displaced to: migrant workers, evicted urban residents and farmers whose land has been expropriated by the state.

This paper considers the history of the tower block in Chinese urban design and how it has become a ubiquitous symbol of urban modernity and progress, and contrasts this to the realities of life in the architectural remnants of Chongqing's egalitarian promise.

Panel Env03
Tower block failures: high-rise anthropology