Accepted paper:

Vancouver [de]constructed: a contested terrain between Chinese investment, renovicted houses, and un-settling futures


Mascha Gugganig (Technical University of Munich)

Paper short abstract:

This talk is concerned with dwelling practices in a city where construction sites have become omnipresent, in part due to Chinese real estate investment. I consider the construction site as platform for current debates, and as monument of unresolved issues and un-settling concerns in the future.

Paper long abstract:

For some years, Vancouver has been among the most expensive cities worldwide, not least due to its housing market. Canada's open immigration policy, Vancouver's history of Asian immigrants, and the city's location have attracted a new Chinese elite frantically buying up real estate, which has contributed to house prices rising 30% within a year. Further, lax housing and tenant regulations have led to the demolition of a thousand houses annually, and of "renovicting" tenants, with younger generations increasingly leaving the city. As a result, there has been an omnipresence of construction sites across the city, often turning into cheaply manufactured mansion-style houses that either remain empty or circulate within a relatively enclosed market for wealthy elites from abroad. Long-term Vancouverites have held politicians accountable to this trend, who respond with hesitation, and fear nourishing anew a racism against Chinese that was present in the early 20th century in British Columbia. In this talk, I engage anthropological literature on infrastructure, and ask what it means to dwell in a city where construction sites have become both ephemeral and a permanent presence. More specifically, I propose looking at construction sites as monuments of unresolved (also colonial) issues in the past, a platform for political debates at present, and as un-settling "ruins of the future" (see Howe et al. 2015). With reference to tenants' accounts and personal experiences, I present dwelling strategies in and against such clashing scales of infrastructural development, and juxtapose them to a global trend of Chinese investment in foreign cities.

panel Sui03
Clashing scales of infrastructural development