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Neglect of a neighbourhood: oral accounts of life in ‘old Beijing’ since the eve of the People's Republic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 November 2013

HARRIET EVANS
Affiliation:
Contemporary China Centre, University of Westminster, 32–8 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, UK

Abstract

Oral accounts of life over seven decades in Dashalanr, a popular neighbourhood in central Beijing, reveal a social world that despite being shaped by the state's policies of social and political classification, housing and employment, has been resistant to complete appropriation by them. Based on research in the neighbourhood since 2005, and drawing on Xuanwu District archives, this article examines local residents’ accounts of long decades of hardship and neglect. With an analytical framework that links gender with temporality, place and space, it suggests ways in which their singular experiences can be read as historical narrative.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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References

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18 Xuanwu qu dang'an guan (XWDG, Xuanwu District Archives) 13–1-34, 3.

19 XWDG 10–2-17, 7:199–102.

20 ‘On a rough estimate, the construction of a seven storey building of 1 million sq metres requires the demolition of 180,00–280,000 square metres of old buildings meaning the relocation of 20,000–30,000 people. So we not only have to resolve the housing issues for residents, but the influence on their employment and lives.’ This report went on to note that ‘there is an excessively high building and population density in the old city areas, so the numbers of buildings that will have to be demolished and residents who will have to be resettled are very high’. ‘Guojia jihua weiyuanhui duiyu Zhonggong Beijing shi wei “Guanyu gaijian yu kuojian Beijing shi guihua cao'an” yijian xiang Zhongyang de baogao’ (Report by the State Planning Commission to the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee on ideas about the Beijing Municipal Committee's ‘Draft regulations on reconstructing and expanding the city of Beijing’), 16 Oct. 1954, in Beijing zhi, 244–5.

21 Ibid., 219.

Ibid.

22 Ibid., 244.

Ibid.

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26 N. Ou, Meishi Jie (Meishi Street), documentary film (2006).

27 ‘ . . . critics of high-rise apartment housing often point to the indifference that characterizes relations between their residents. However, . . . in the one-storey courtyard houses, close relations among the residents do not necessarily mean intimate relations. Their interaction is forced upon them by tight circumstances and entails a fundamental disruption of privacy.’ Wu, L., Rehabilitating the Old City of Beijing: A Project in the Ju'er Hutong Neighbourhood (Vancouver, 1999), 114Google Scholar.

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Ibid.

39 XWDG, 13–2-4.

40 XWDG, 13-1-34, 4.

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