I want this place to survive and thrive: Territorialization, moral citizenship, and mobile cultural workforce in China
This project, lead by Jun WANG, is concerned with understanding how the technology of territorialization is used in the development of Chinese cultural cities. Recent scholarship has linked the ascendency of cultural cities to nodes where flows of ideas, people, capital and creative goods encounter situated aspirations and practices. Local governments design and implement policies aimed at maintaining desirable populations on their land. In a Foucauldian reading, we are looking at technologies of territorialization for the “right” disposition of land and population. In this context, the cultural community has been assigned a “flexible specialization” production mode. In it, two identities seem to coexist: the creative class with “cool” jobs in “buzzing” places, and, the cultural workforce, who is employed on a project basis and thus lives precariously. ‘Glamorized risk’ is used to justify moral citizenship, which operates as a state-regulated mechanism of inclusion and exclusion. In other words, it detaches welfare entitlement from the place of residence and reserves them to the deserving individuals who can demonstrate their value for the economy.

There are two reasons for adding a geographic dimensions to moral citizenship studies in China. First, a large troop of migrant workers, who are self-employed and have little bargaining power, has joined the new economy and floats in various cultural cities or zones. Second, the hukou system, which has been deployed as an instrument to attract desired workforce and block others, has been reformed with neoliberal morality that promotes self-improvement. The research will explore how the hukou moral standard is instrumentalized to enable the productivity-oriented disposition of cultural workforce and cultural zones, leading to a dynamic process of de-territorialization and re-territorialization.

This study will contribute to global discussions on how far and in what ways moral citizenship is construed to mobilize, fix, and/or block population segments who live with a precarious pattern. Through investigation at the community level, it attempts to examine territorialization not only as ideological rhetoric, or as economic strategy, but also as the state’s political project of space production.

(Photo by Ding Zhou on Flickr)

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