Materializing a form of urban governance : when street building intersected with city building in Republican Canton (Guangzhou), 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)153-174
Journal / PublicationHistory and Technology
Issue number2
Online published5 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


In the early twentieth-century China, the imperial court collapsed and modern cities emerged. How did a new form of governance become materialized, conceivable, and understandable? This article presents a case study of street building Canton (present-day Guangzhou) in the 1920s and 1930s. Drawing on discussions of material power, infrastructures, and governmentality, it attends to the role of material artifacts in creating the modern Chinese city. In particular, it illustrates the entangled emergence and development of modern streets and urban governance, a new form of governance essential to fashioning the Chinese nation-state and Chinese modernity. The unstable, evolving process of creating a new built environment provided specific, material reference points for various stakeholders to imagine and think about the modern city as governable space. This case analysis suggests an alternative perspective to urban history in China, and contributes to the broader discussion on the symbiotic relationship between urban politics and infrastructure.

Research Area(s)

  • Infrastructure, governance, urbanization, street, materiality, China, INFRASTRUCTURE, POLITICS, TECHNOLOGIES, WATER