Chinese Urbanities – Relations between Space and Society

Workshop organized by Ryanne Flock (Modern East Asian Studies, Goethe Universität Frankfurt / Sinologie, Freie Universität Berlin) and Lisa Melcher (Graduate School of East Asian Studies, Freie Universität Berlin) with cooperation of GEAS.

When we talk about urbanity, we need to engage in qualitative modes of description and analysis. Urbanization has to be understood not only as a reconfiguration of built space, but also as a far-reaching change in its social fabric. Studies of China’s rapid urbanization during the last 30 years often emphasize its impressive quantitative aspects: The velocity of development, economic superlatives, and mega-urban areas are assumed to characterize this ‘urban revolution.’ Yet, how can we understand the shifts in the reciprocal relationship between urban space and urban society?
How does Chinese society change with and through urban space? Which actors play a role in the negotiations and processes that are involved in the production of space? How is space used and appropriated in everyday life, and, vice-versa, how do spatial formations influence the “urban way of life” (Louis Wirth)? On a more abstract level: Can we analyze urbanity in China with the existing theoretical toolkit of urban studies, or do we have to resort to describing uniquely Chinese urbanities?
This workshop focuses on the reciprocal relationships between space and society in smaller and bigger Chinese cities since the beginning of the reform and opening policies of the late 1970s. We welcome contributions from a broad range of disciplines and the participation of an interested audience. Thereby, we hope to provide a forum for dialogue between urban studies and research on China.


  • September 29-30, 2017


  • Graduate School of East Asian Studies
    Freie Universität Berlin
    Hittorfstr. 18
    14195 Berlin


GEAS offers partial travel grants to PhD students who have no other sources of funding for travel expenses. When you submit your abstract, please inform us whether you would like to apply for travel funding.

Call for Papers

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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