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Reining in Rogue Legislation

An Overview of China’s Invigoration of the ‘Recording and Review’ Process

During the 1980s and 1990s, the Chinese Government created two forms of administrative detention to combat perceived social ills. The first, ‘custody and repatriation’ (C&R, 收容遣送), was used ‘as a coercive measure to manage the flow of migrant workers and undesirables into China’s urban centers’ (Hand 2006: 120). The other, known as ‘custody and education’ […]

Industrial Things in a Post-Industrial Society

The Life and Afterlife of a Chinese Glass-Forming Machine

This essay considers the emergence of post-industrial China through an examination of the ‘social’ and ‘antisocial’ lives of an industrial glass-forming machine. By reviewing the process through which glass-forming technology developed in China, the closure of industrial glass manufacturing in Shanghai, and the adoption of an abandoned glass-forming machine by the Shanghai Museum of Glass, the essay reflects on the ways in which one formerly industrial district has begun to negotiate its multiple and sometimes conflicting identities.

Everyday Necro-Capitalism

One of the perks of being the son of an Italian railway worker is that, when I was younger, I could hop on and off any train I wanted without having to buy a ticket. Those were the days before high-speed trains, when Italy’s rail network mostly comprised ‘regional’ and ‘interregional’ trains, which moved very […]

Revolution Offshore, Capitalism Onshore

Ships and the Changing Relationship between China and the World

This essay tells a backstory of the Belt and Road Initiative by tracing the voyages of the Minghua and two other ships managed by the China Ocean Shipping Bureau—both as mobile vessels at sea and as a permanent presence on land. When mobile at sea in the Mao period, these ships functioned as vessels not only for passengers and commodities, but also for Maoist ideology. The Minghua’s retirement to Shenzhen then coincided with China’s transition from the Mao to the Deng era. Having bid farewell to the sea, the ship became part of the city’s landscape and was turned into a dynamic experiment field for the market economy and a medium through which ideas travel and identities shift

The Work of Culture

Of Barons, Dark Academia, and the Corruption of Language in the Neoliberal University

There was a time when academia was society’s refuge for the eccentric, brilliant, and impractical. No longer. It is now the domain of professional self-marketers. As for the eccentric, brilliant, and impractical: it would seem society now has no place for them at all. — David Graeber (2015: 134–35)   Much has been written in […]

The Yirenping Experience: Looking Back and Pushing Forward

The Beijing Yirenping Centre was one of the most remarkable grassroots nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) to emerge in China during the Hu and Wen era. Through an innovative mix of strategies, including legal litigation, public advocacy, and performative arts, the centre was able to promote significant policy changes in its field of operation—that is, anti-discrimination—before being […]

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From Green Shoots to Crushed Petals: Labour NGOs in China

When China hosted the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Summit on Women, who would have thought it would be a catalytic event in the growth of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) in China? This meeting of UN representatives from all over the world and activists attending the shadow NGO conference held in Huairou County, Beijing, unleashed a […]

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China’s Human Rights Lawyers: Rifts and Schisms in an Era of Global Human Rights Backlash

While the ongoing human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and the dramatic constitutional collapse of Hong Kong rightly demand most of the attention that the news media, international civil society, and democratic governments can pay to China today, systematic violations of human rights continue throughout the country, and Chinese rights defenders are […]

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Unfinished Revolution: An Overview of Three Decades of LGBT Activism in China

In the past three decades, China’s civil society has gone through a series of ups and downs in the context of shifting national policies and geopolitics. The Fourth World Conference on Women that was held in Beijing in 1995 was a watershed moment for transnational feminism and LGBT activism.[1] It not only introduced the nongovernmental […]

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