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Space production by migrants in urban villages in China: the case of Beijing
1  Department of International Urbanism, Institute of Urban Planning and Design, University of Stuttgart


The urban village is a phenomenon arising in modern China, whose rapid urbanization is characterized by its urban sprawl and accelerated growth of urban population. Due to the dual urban-rural land system, local villagers have the right to make extensions on their homesteads to the existing houses, which they rent out to migrant population. In recent years, the mechanisms of developing urban villages and redevelopment strategies have been widely discussed. However, scholars (Tong and Feng, 2009; Wang et al., 2009; Herrle et al., 2014) rather focus on the interest of local villagers and the profit of government and developers. The interest and contribution of migrant stakeholders, the largest and most vulnerable group in urban villages, are often neglected. Borrowing Gilbert’s (2007) insight, if the word “slum” has to be adopted there, these villages are “slums of hope” to large extent thanks to the migrant community. Contrary to common perception, neighborhood attachment among migrants is stronger than assumed (Wu, 2014). This paper aims to study and describe how the migrant community shapes urban villages in Beijing through space production (Lefebvre, 1991). It is hypothesized that migrant population not only passively adopts the space, but also actively builds relationships with and within particular spaces, and gives these spaces certain identities. In this way, the community within urban villages is stabilized and social cohesion is increased. Migrants are trying to create an unfamiliar rootedness and promote resilience in the new social and physical environment and affect the social-spatial transformation of urban villages. Extensive field research was conducted adopting qualitative methodologies. Comparison study was made between two case villages, Shigezhuang and Dongxindian, representing two kinds of urban villages in terms of the groups of migrant population they accommodate. Shigezhuang holds migrants who are mostly low-skilled and are clustering based on home origins, while Dongxindian holds more middle-skilled migrants who do not necessarily share a place bond.

Keywords: urban village; migrant community; space production