"I Want this Place to Survive and Thrive" Territorialization, Moral Citizenship, and Mobile Cultural Workforce in China

Project: Research

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The ascendency of cultural cities builds upon nodes where flows of ideas, population, capitaland cultural/creative goods encounter with situated aspirations and practices (Kong 2014, Royand Ong 2011). It raises the question for local governments to design and implementcalculated policies to maintain desirable populations on their land, or in the Foucauldiansense, the technology of territorialization towards the “right” disposition of land andpopulation. This proposed research stems from such a concern in understanding thetechnology of territorialization in developing cultural cities in China.Labelled with a “flexible specialization” production mode, the cultural community seems tobear dual identities, that is, the creative class with “cool” jobs in “buzzing” places and, thecultural workforce who works on a project basis and thus lives precariously. The glamorizedrisk justifies the moral citizenship, which operates as the state-regulated mechanism ofinclusion and exclusion (Hindess 2002, Schinkel and Van Houdt 2010). The moral citizenshipdetaches welfare entitlement from the place of residence and attaches welfare to the deservinggroup, who demonstrate their value to the economy.A geographic dimension should be added to moral citizenship studies in China for tworeasons. First, a large troop of migrant workers, who are self-employed and have littlebargaining 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 desiredworkforce and block others, has been reformed with neoliberal morality that promotes self-improvement.I will zoom into the sites of intersections to interrogate the technology ofterritorialization: how the new hukou with moral standard is instrumentalized to enable theproductivity-oriented disposition of cultural workforce and cultural zones, leading to adynamic process of de-territorialization and re-territorialization.This study will contribute to the global discussions on how far and in what ways moralcitizenship is construed to mobilize, fix, and/or block population segments who live with aprecarious pattern. Therefore, the study will shed light on precarious geography. Investigatingat the community level, this study attempts to explore techniques deployed by a range ofactors engaged in multiple ways and a “more complex rendering of the relationship betweensimplification, control, and improvement.” Following the Foucauldian approach, the studywill interrogate the technology of territorialization not only through ideological rhetoric oreconomic strategy but eventually through the political project of state space production(Elden 2006, Lemke 2001).


Project number9048065
Grant typeECS
Effective start/end date1/01/1627/12/19

    Research areas

  • Territorialization,moral citizenship,cultural workforce,mobility,