Joyful singing in parks : Encounters, appropriations, and contradictions in the dynamic of state governance in urban China

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

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-128
Journal / PublicationAntropologia Portuguesa
Issue number39
Online published12 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022



Older citizens engaging in casual choral singing in public parks — a form of “social nonmovement” — can serve as a locus to show how cultural and spatial strategies of state governance become entangled, not without friction, in a Chinese city. Marginalized by the new urban economy, the choral singing participants appropriate an older socialist form of state-orchestrated public culture — which has shaped their bodily habitus during the earlier stages of their lives — for fun and socialization. In turn, the central government appropriates this leisure form of choral singing to re-animate Party public culture as a means to secure political legitimacy and promote a harmonious society. Such state-orchestrated public culture, with its implicit spatial order, justifies mass gatherings in public spaces and legitimizes the choral participants’ claim of public space, even though the post-socialist urban economy has given rise to a new spatial order that marginalizes such activities. This article shows how different state governing strategies designed to govern different aspects of life with different concerns formulated at different times intersect with one another and with ordinary citizens’ quotidian practices. Such encounters of governing strategies create space, albeit vulnerable, for creativity in the everyday life of the ordinary.

Research Area(s)

  • Social nonmovement, mundane lives, public culture, embodied practice, spatial politics

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