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Taking Part: The Social Experience of Informal Finance in Ordos, Inner Mongolia

  • Max D. Woodworth and Michael Ulfstjerne

Abstract

This article examines how a resource bonanza in Ordos Municipality, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, in the 2000s translated into broad-based participation in informal lending networks and drove a remarkable, but short-lived, phase of urban expansion and private wealth accumulation. Local lending networks inflated enormous credit and property bubbles, which ultimately burst in 2011 with severe ramifications for Ordos's urban expansion and households' livelihoods. Based on fifteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in Ordos, the analysis advances the idea of “taking part” to explore the interconnected desires to participate in urban expansion and to seize for oneself a portion of the local bonanzas in natural resources, property, and finance. The socio-spatial impacts of the financialization of the everyday environment are discussed in relation to urban transformation, the production of a “ghost town,” and local authorities' opportunistic forms of deregulation. These were vital ingredients in Ordos's spectacular passage from boom to bust.

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Taking Part: The Social Experience of Informal Finance in Ordos, Inner Mongolia

  • Max D. Woodworth and Michael Ulfstjerne

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