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In Search of Paradise: Middle-Class Living in a Chinese Metropolis Paperback – April 22, 2010
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"China's rapid urbanisation process and an emerging real estate market have become an eye-catching phenomenon in academic research. It not only greatly transformed the landscape of Chinese cities, but greatly altered the way urban Chinese live and think about their private space, public space and their traditional communities. . . .Overall, this book is easy to read. It can be used as a textbook for undergraduate or postgraduate students to understand the spatialisation of class. It can also provide rich information to academics seeking to understand how individuals, the state, corporations, homeowners and other social groups reposition themselves during housing regime change in China."―Yawei Chen, International Journal of Housing Policy (June 2014)
"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
"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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
The theoretical premise of this book is that the social, political, and cultural repercussions of market reform and socialist transformations in contemporary China are significant and it does seem to be a relationship between class formation and spatial production (P.14) as the Chinese government has taken measures to substitute the growth of public for private housing market since the 1980s (space making, class making’ hypothesis).Read more ›