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In Search of Paradise: Middle-Class Living in a Chinese Metropolis Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (April 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801475627
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801475627
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #444,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The emergence of an increasingly assertive Chinese middle class, aware of its rights but selectively attentive to the civic values that speculators and developers frequently trample underfoot, infuses both the analytic precision and the passionate chiaroscuro of In Search of Paradise. Against the appalling backdrop of the construction laborers' living conditions and of massive patterns of eviction and dislocation, Zhang shows how realtors deploy national laws and socialist and environmental values, with a sometimes self-interested cynicism that nevertheless also answers to the drive to generate a wholesale spatial restructuring—from face-lifts to high-rise fortresses—of Chinese society and subjectivity."—Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University, author of Evicted from Eternity: The Restructuring of Modern Rome



"Li Zhang's perceptive analysis of the 'spatialization of class' and its role in the emergence of a new middle class offers important insights into a Chinese version of modernization and urban development while also uncovering the unstable and complex ways in which spatial transformation creates new forms of identity and experiences of urbanity. Our ability to understand the impact of increasing private home ownership globally depends on this kind of in-depth culturally, politically, and economically informed ethnography. The regional city of Kunming, scarred and deprived of its historical and architectural heritage, becomes the image of modernity and the answer to the dreams of the Chinese middle class and their search for a modern future. But at the same time something is lost and homeowners along with other citizens begin to struggle against the government and private developers who are capitalizing on the remaking of the urban landscape."—Setha Low, Professor of Anthropology, Geography, and Environmental Psychology, CUNY Graduate Center, author of Behind the Gates and On the Plaza



"In Search of Paradise is an engaging ethnography of the very different ways in which individuals, families, and social strata are affected by the experience of homeownership. Li Zhang explains how, in the process, they become citizens of a different political order, building responsibilities and elaborating desires. This important book is a significant addition to the literature on China's housing reform and to our understanding of the political and cultural dynamics of urban social change."—Luigi Tomba, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific



"In Search of Paradise is concerned with . . . the implications of the reconfiguration of residential space in Chinese cities for class formation, social exclusion, governing practices, state-society relations, and even for conjugal relationships. . . . Zhang uses her native Kunming as test ground; this results in a savvy and highly readable ethnography of urban social change, which is nonetheless grounded in a strong theoretical framework."—Beatriz Carrillo, The China Journal (July 2011)



"This book is an excellent ethnography of urban middle-class living in the midst of rapid transformation in China's postsocialism. The validity of Zhang’s ethnography is enhanced by its frankness, her willingness to be honest about those with whom she mingled so closely in her hometown. . . . Especially given the difficulty in gaining access to the lives of middle-class people, who prefer the privacy of living in gated communities, this book is ethnography at its best. It will be of interest to scholars working in Chinese market transition, class and social stratification, state-society relations, and urban studies, as well as those who are interested in empirically-grounded social and cultural theories."—Seio Nakajima, Journal of Asian Studies (May 2011)

From the Back Cover

"The emergence of an increasingly assertive Chinese middle class, aware of its rights but selectively attentive to the civic values that speculators and developers frequently trample underfoot, infuses both the analytic precision and the passionate chiaroscuro of In Search of Paradise. Against the appalling backdrop of the construction laborers' living conditions and of massive patterns of eviction and dislocation, Zhang shows how realtors deploy national laws and socialist and environmental values, with a sometimes self-interested cynicism that nevertheless also answers to the drive to generate a wholesale spatial restructuring--from face-lifts to high-rise fortresses--of Chinese society and subjectivity."--Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University, author of Evicted from Eternity: The Restructuring of Modern Rome

"Li Zhang's perceptive analysis of the 'spatialization of class' and its role in the emergence of a new middle class offers important insights into a Chinese version of modernization and urban development while also uncovering the unstable and complex ways in which spatial transformation creates new forms of identity and experiences of urbanity. Our ability to understand the impact of increasing private home ownership globally depends on this kind of in-depth culturally, politically, and economically informed ethnography. The regional city of Kunming, scarred and deprived of its historical and architectural heritage, becomes the image of modernity and the answer to the dreams of the Chinese middle class and their search for a modern future. But at the same time something is lost and homeowners along with other citizens begin to struggle against the government and private developers who are capitalizing on the remaking of the urban landscape."--Setha Low, Professor of Anthropology, Geography, and Environmental Psychology, CUNY Graduate Center, author of Behind the Gates and On the Plaza --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Li Zhang is a professor of anthropology at the University of California-Davis and a 2008 Guggenheim fellow. Her research concerns the cultural, spatial, and psychological repercussions of market reforms and postsocialist transformations in China. Her first book, Strangers in the City: Reconfigurations of Space, Power, and Social Networks within China's Floating Population (Stanford 2001), traces the reconfigurations of space, power, and social networks within China's "floating population" under late socialism and globalization. Her recently published book, In Search of Paradise: Middle Class Living in a Chinese Metropolis (Cornell 2010), examines how the rise of private home ownership reshapes class-specific subjects, urban space, and postsocialist governing. She has also co-edited a volume with Aihwa Ong, Privatizing China, Socialism from Afar (Cornell), which explores how technologies of privatization and neoliberalism articulate with diverse areas of life and politics in China. Her current new research project explores what she calls the "inner revolution" brought by an emerging psychological counseling movement in the cities and how it reshapes Chinese people's understandings of selfhood, emotions, happiness, and well-being in the midst of rapid social change.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on August 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
In less than two decades, China has changed from a predominantly public-housing regime to one with one of the highest private home ownership rates in the world. Class distinctions are emerging via location, spatial exclusion (gated communities) in the socialist land. The new trends have also spurred public engagement among homeowners confronting the encroaching power of developers. The author primarily focuses on changes in his home town of Kunming, but also has more general material from elsewhere in China.

Prior to 1950, private housing had been largely concentrated in the hands of a small number of landlords, with ordinary citizens living in poor, over-crowded conditions on the edge of towns - often made of mud, and self-constructed. In 1950, all private property was taken by the state, and upper-class housing was subdivided, with the original owners given a few rooms (if anything). Conflicts over shared kitchen, courtyard, bathroom space were common, as well as noise and cleanliness. The average living space/capita in urban areas was 3.1 square maters in 1960, rising to 5.2 in 1985. Shanghai and Beijing often had three generations in one room, subdivided by hung sheets. Cooking often took place on portable stoves in the hallways. Restitution for those original seizures has been rare in China because the records were largely destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.

Public housing in units of 5 - 15,000 became the rule for 80-90% for those in urban areas, distributed and managed by one's work unit. This was perhaps the most important welfare benefit up to the late 1990s. One's rank, as well as the strength of one's employer, affected rooming assignments. Corruption was also a factor.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By lwy on September 10, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This might be a good book for an undergrad introduction course. But as an ethnographic book, it is just too shallow. I feel like a lot of discussion on cyberspace are more nutritious and informative than this. The author just talked to a few people and combined her own experience in her hometown kunming into a book.
This book is also a bit outdated in order to get a comprehensive view of Chinese real estate development in recent years. After the 400 billion program has relieved, the market has changed dramatically.
Also, I don't understand why this author choose kunming to as a fieldwork site. In my eyes, Beijing and shanghai seems to be much better for a ethnography on real estate/middle class. I believe she just want to save the trouble to travel around... While most Chinese scholars tend to research in their acquainted hometown, I still feel suspicious. I mean, if it is not a sensitive topic or topic in great need of social relations, I still think it's better to do research outside one's hometown.
Lastly, the author use a lot of pinyin when she could make direct translation. And she hasn't given good explanation to the pinyin word, which could be very hard for non-native speakers to understand.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bradley W. Bleck on April 7, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a read, this isn't particularly engaging, but the information it contains, for anyone interested in some of the nuances of contemporary China, is well worth than rather unexciting prose. But, this isn't something you read to be excited.
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