Growing rights consciousness of the marginalised and the reshuffling of the landlord–tenant power relationship : Examining a country park-induced displacement in Shanghai

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2510
Number of pages12
Journal / PublicationPopulation, Space and Place
Online published1 Sep 2021
Publication statusOnline published - 1 Sep 2021


Informal settlements are often subject to government-led demolitions and clearances. In contemporary China, the removal of such settlements often necessitates negotiations between governments and landlords who are hard to dislocate, as exemplified in ‘Nail Households’ literature, whereas migrant tenants, if any, can be easily evicted without appropriate compensation. Our case study, however, presents evidence contrary to this. Migrant tenants proactively defended their rights and demanded compensation from their landlords. Drawing upon the lens of rights consciousness, this paper examines how the presumably marginalised migrant tenants were able to successfully defend their rights and interests. We found that (i) social capital accumulation, stigmatisation, the exclusion of planning participation and the transfer of clearance responsibility through two rounds of ‘state retreats’ reinforced the rights consciousness of migrant tenants and served to consolidate their bargaining power, contributing to a reshuffling of the landlord–tenant power position. (ii) The landlords, incentivised by attractive compensation packages, were brought into a temporary and fragile alliance with government agencies to secure the dislocation of the migrant tenants. The landlords thus took responsibility for the clearance from government agencies, whereas the local state was able to tactfully avoid any government–tenant confrontations. Although the tenants were able to secure adequate compensation from their landlords, the overall situation brought an end to the social support that existed in migrant enclaves and thus hampered their upward social mobility. This study revisits the understanding of the reshuffling of the landlord–tenant power relationship, albeit contingent and transient, against the backdrop of changing state–society relations.

Research Area(s)

  • bargaining power, demolition and relocation, landlord–tenant power relation, rights consciousness, state–society relationship, tenant eviction

Citation Format(s)