Time experiences of uncertainty and aspiration among rural migrants in globalizing Shanghai

Xiao He

- completed -

This project explored rural migrants’ experiences of time in globalizing Shanghai. Before a period of rigid restrictions on migration from the 1960s to the 1980s, Shanghai had historically been a global commercial center attracting many internal and international migrants. Since the 1990s, Shanghai has been reconstructing itself into an emerging global city, witnessing massive inflows of rural migrants and rapid urbanization. Indeed, the social landscape of Shanghai is being reconfigured, not only in terms of urban space, but also in terms of temporality. While the state attempts to promote a ‘new Shanghainese’ identity based on a futuristic vision of belonging, Xiao’s previous research found that rural migrants often claimed that they ‘live one day at a time’. On the one hand, because of their memory of the state’s violent restriction on migration and their anticipation of precarious urban restructuring, rural migrants feel a strong uncertainty in everyday life; on the other hand, globalizing Shanghai enables their aspiration for possibilities, causing them to remain and persevere with the everyday despite great uncertainty. The central question of the project is two-fold: (1) how heightened social and economic uncertainties brought out by migration and urban transformations sharpen rural migrants’ everyday experiences of time; and (2) how they enact their historically- and culturally-specific temporalities to deal with urban uncertainty, reclaim urban aspirations, and forge new urban politics.


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