China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Theodore Adorno’s famous statement “Nothing is true in psychoanalysis except its exaggerations” offers an approach to the question of how to situate urban China in a comparative context. China’s urbanization, with the rapid growth of cities and expansion in urban population, also invite numerous exaggerations. If China’s pattern of urbanization is without historical precedent or comparable contemporary cases, as it is often alleged, does this make comparison a meaningless exercise? The papers in this panel suggest otherwise. Studies of urbanization in China can illuminate and question received concepts from the field of urban studies, many of which emerged from the urban experience of the West. Comparisons between Chinese patterns of urbanization and cities outside of China can also show that some of the “special characteristics” ascribed to Chinese urbanization may also be found in cities with appreciably different institutional and historical backgrounds. The papers in this panel are authored by China specialists who have conducted qualitative research on urbanization in cities outside of China. The comparisons of this sort are a mode of de-familiarization, in which taken-for-granted assumptions and presumed differences can be challenged by surprising similarities. At the same time, the exercise of comparison can bring new understandings to prior assumptions regarding urban China.