Urban Furnace: The Making of a Chinese City (Dissertation Defense)

I will be defending my dissertation on April 7th. All are welcome. Details below.

Urban Furnace: The Making of a Chinese City

Nick R. Smith

Dissertation Defense

Department of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning

Harvard University


Tuesday, April 7th 1:00-3:00 PM

Gund Hall, Room 122


Committee: Eve Blau, Peter Rowe, Susan Fainstein, Michael Herzfeld


Urban transformation and the production of urban-rural difference have been defining characteristics of reform-era China. In recent years, the Chinese state has taken measures to relieve urban-rural inequity and coordinate urban and rural development. Beginning in 2003, these efforts took the form of “urban-rural coordination,” a national regime of policy reform that included local experiments throughout China. One of the earliest and most significant of these experiments was located in Chongqing, a provincial-level municipality in China’s southwest. In this dissertation, I explore Chongqing’s urban-rural coordination program as part of a larger process through which urban-rural difference is produced, contested, and mobilized in China. I pursue this project through an investigation of Hailong, a peri-urban village that has undergone rapid transformation over the last decade. An experiment within an experiment, Hailong is a site of intense contestation, as planners, party and state leaders, and residents advance alternately competing and complementary visions of Hailong’s future.

Through my investigation of Hailong, I pose the following question: How is urban-rural difference produced, and to what ends? Using a combination of ethnography and spatial analysis, I explore the social, spatial, and temporal dimensions of the political processes that produce urban-rural difference. My investigation reveals urban-rural difference as both an expression of the spatio-temporal unevenness of power and a means to consolidate and contest that power. Through this analysis, urban-rural coordination emerges as a political project that simultaneously expands state power and depoliticizes that expansion through its representation as a function of technical and market rationality.