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Minhua Ling – Containerization of Migrant Housing on Shanghai’s Edge

November 7, 2022 @ 8:30 pm 10:00 pm

Speaker: Minhua Ling, Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study

China’s escalated infrastructural and real estate development has gradually erased urban villages and reduced affordable living space for rural-to-urban migrants. This talk showcases the emerging practice of container housing among low-income migrants who live in removable cargo containers or prefabricated metal shelters on the urban fringe of Shanghai. Despite the neglected appearance of container housing, I argue that its existence and operation exemplify “formal informality” entailing the acquiescence and surveillance of local state agents as well as entrepreneurs’ tactics of conformation that sustains structural inequality. Container housing also contributes to the deterritorialization of homemaking among migrant workers, who are channeled by hukou-related policies to invest and retire in their registered home places. The containerization of migrant housing thus reinforces migrants’ socio-spatial precarity in China’s exclusive urban citizenship and place-specific property regime.

Minhua Ling is a sociocultural anthropologist with research interests in mobility, inequality, sustainability, rural-urban relations, and environmental humanities. Her single-authored articles appeared in international journals including China QuarterlyChina Journal, Anthropological Quarterly, Urban Studies, positions: asia critique, and HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory. Her monograph The Inconvenient Generation: Migrant Youth Coming of Age on Shanghai’s Edge (Stanford University Press, 2020) offers the first longitudinal study of second-generation rural-to-urban migrant youth navigating through middle school to labor and consumer markets. She taught at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (2013-2022) and is currently a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study (2022-23), after which she will join the Geneva Graduate Institute as Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology in the fall of 2023.

Zoom link: https://harvard.zoom.us/j/96217779608


November 7, 2022
8:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Event Category:


Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies


Presented via Zoom

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