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AAS Panel "Social Worlds in Chinese Cities"

Mar 19, 2023 | 09:00 AM - 10:30 AM

Panel contribution by the Joint Center Worldmaking at the AAS Annual Conference on March 19, 2023


9:00 - 10:30 AM EST


Boston Sheraton Hotel - Gardner B (3rd Floor)

About the panel

Economic restructuring, globalization, and urbanization have had enormous effects on the social structure in China’s cities. Among the most prominent phenomena of these rapid developments are the growth of a middle class, alongside new groups of urban poor. Urban life is characterized by the entangled relations between these contrasting parts of society that seem incompatible, yet are mutually dependent and co-create one another. Thus, the realization of middle-class living depends on construction workers, domestic helpers, security staff and delivery drivers recruited from the social group of rural migrants – exactly the people gated communities with their safe and amenable environments are supposed to keep out. From a social worlds perspective, society is composed of various overlapping worlds, which share worldviews, values and identities, and which communicate and contest their views with other worlds (Strauss 1978, Clarke and Star 2008). Such a perspective allows us to dissect the burgeoning Chinese city and analyze the various component parts of the urban social fabric as well as how they relate to each other. This panel focuses on the overarching question, how social worlds in China’s cities have been created, transformed and/or marginalized in times of rapid social change and advancing urbanization. The three presentations investigate newly evolving social worlds among migrant workers, the creation of urban poor in state and non-state discourses, and the transformation of worlds among urbanites in conjunction with the changes of built environment in China’s cities. The methods applied range from ethnographic fieldwork through narrative interviews to discourse analysis.


Producing Flexible Working Subjects: The Politics of Seasonal Bonus Work and Welfare Arrangement Among Migrant Factory Workers in China

Jingyu Mao, Bielefeld University

Floating Belongingness: Re-Narrating the Mobile Poor in Post-Socialist China

Ryanne Flock, University of Wuerzburg

Like Flipping Heaven and Earth: Social Mobility and Urban Redevelopment in Contemporary China

Björn Alpermann, University of Wuerzburg


Elena Meyer-Clement, University of Copenhagen

Björn Alpermann, University of Wuerzburg


Elena Meyer-Clement, University of Copenhagen


Xuefei Ren, Michigan State University