Undergraduate and graduate programmes offered by the University iuav of Venice:

Xiangming Chen



Xiangming Chen is the dean and director of the Center for Urban and Global Studies and Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of Global Urban Studies and Sociology at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He is also a distinguished guest professor in the School of Social Development and Public Policy at Fudan University in Shanghai. His (co)authored and co-edited books include As Borders Bend: Transnational Spaces on the Pacific Rim, Shanghai Rising: State Power and Local Transformations in a Global Megacity, and Rethinking Global Urbanism: Comparative Insights from Secondary Cities.





Commercial Development from Below:

A Portrait of Shanghai Through the Tianzifang Shopping Area

As a global city with a cosmopolitan history and driven by powerful state planning, Shanghai’s rapid transformation over the last three decades is both complex and contentious. While any way of looking at this complexity and contention will end up with an incomplete view, I offer a rare portrait of Shanghai through a bottom-up lens on the intersected space of commercial and social activities in a quasi-planned but more spontaneously developed shopping area named Tianzifang. This portrait of Shanghai is constructed from a deep ethnographic study I have conducted in collaboration with Shanghai-based scholars, which is part of a transnational collaborative project on two local shopping streets in each of six global cities. (A book based on this project entitled Global Cities, Local Streets, edited by Sharon Zukin, Philip Kasinitz, and Xiangming Chen, will be published by Routledge in July 2015.) In presenting this distinctive portrait of Shanghai, I use two complementary types of information: 1) a documentary video shot in the Tianzifang area and narrated by a key local researcher, and 2) a set of in-depth interview narratives by select shop owners. I show globalization, migration (both international and domestic), and the role of the (local) state are experienced and embodied by shopkeepers, customers, and passersby in the bounded and intimate small spaces of everyday life and diversity. I focus on how the contact and tension between the global and the local, between the state and the market, between the “exotic” and the “authentic,” between cultural innovation and mass commerce, and between newcomers and longtime residents play out through the daily routine of commercial transactions and social interactions in this area. The ultimate purpose of this portrait is to counter the prevailing image and narrative of Shanghai being transformed by powerful global capital, large-scale state planning, and sweeping urban redevelopment. By focusing on the origin and evolution of the Tianzifang shopping area, I document the resurgence of commercial development from below based on the resilience of local shops as a distinctive character in a time of rapid urban change.



Key Words Global City, Local Street, Role of the State, Commercial Development from Below, Shanghai





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