Spatiality, Belonging and Citizenship in the Age of Migration in Contemporary China – Asia Pacific Viewpoint – article

Spatiality, Belonging and Citizenship in the Age of Migration in Contemporary China

Dror Kochan | Asia Pacific Viewpoint

2019-11-01

While internal migration in contemporary China ascribes a great change to urban China’s demographic composition, social structures and economic development trajectories, it is yet to restructure the formal definitions of urban identity and belonging, which are still dominated by the household registration system (hukou). The paper suggests that as a result of changes in the political, economic, demographic and social contexts within which China’s internal migration develops, there emerge a crucial need to re‐examine the crude forms of determining identity and belonging, questioning the addressing of spatiality within the existing mechanisms (such as hukou system or the shiminhua discourse). To do so, the paper argues that the existing de‐territorialisation of the migration experience has to be replaced with a more nuanced understanding of how spatial practices and conceptualisations shape migrants’ experiences, as it is becoming imperative to develop a new framework that is more sensitive to migrants’ lived process of identification and belonging, especially as these traverse multiple geographies and spatial scales. This close engagement with migrants’ spatiality can then be used as a base from which to engage with a more complex view of migrants’ spatial and social relatedness, as well as the development of their urban belonging and identity.

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