Gated Communities in China
Class, Privilege and the Moral Politics of the Good Life
Routledge – 2009 – 224 pages
Moving beyond conventional accounts of gated communities and housing segregation, this book interrogates the moral politics of urban place-making in China’s commodity housing enclaves. Drawing on fieldwork and survey conducted in Shanghai, Pow critically demonstrates how gated communities are bound up in the cultural reproduction of middle-class landscape that is entrenched in the politics of the good life – defined in terms of a highly segregated landscape secured and maintained through the territorialisation of privilege, lifestyle and private property.
The study challenges the concept of gated communities as simply ‘spatial containers’ of social classes and argues that Shanghai’s gated enclaves may be more fruitfully analyzed as critical sites of and for the production and consumption of an exclusive lifestyle where nascent middle-class sensibilities and identities are being (re)presented, cultivated and lived. In the final analysis, the book addresses an overarching normative concern by examining how social-spatial differentiation and exclusion in Shanghai’s gated communities potentially disrupt, challenge and unsettle the modern ideals of urban life. By adopting a geographical moral perspective, this book illuminates the moral complexities and ambiguities of place-making in Shanghai’s increasingly polarized urban landscape.
As the first book length academic study on gated communities in China, this book will appeal broadly to those with interests in Urban studies and urban social development in China.
"Most studies adopt a macroscopic perspective of political and economic changes. Gated Communities in China is a rare exception and thus an important and timely contribution to the understanding of residential development, especially 'commodity housing enclaves', in China […] I admire Pow's cultural sensitivity, keen and detailed observations, and grounded approach […] Pow's Gated Communities in China is a truly substantive and noteworthy addition to the literature on Chinese housing development and social changes and I enthusiastically recommend this book to researchers in gated communities and Chinese urban studies." - Fulong Wu, Environment and Planning A 2010, volume 42
1. Introduction: Gated Communities and the Lure of the Good Life 2. Making Middle-Class Spaces: Privilege, Territoriality and the Moral Geographies of Exclusion 3. Urban Reform, the New Middle-Class and the Emergence of Gated Communities in Shanghai 4. Imagineering Suburbia: Contested Representations of the Chinese Dream Home 5.Seeking Privacy and Seclusion: Private Property, Individualism and Neoliberal Subjectivities 6. Maintaining Order and Civility: Purified Spaces and the Paradox of Gated Living 7. Beyond the Gates: A Geographical-moral Critique 8. Conclusion
Pow Choon-Piew is Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at the National University of Singapore.