Airing Grievances and the Atmospherics of Chinese Legal Reform
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About the talk:
This talk considers the ways in which legal reform unfolds as a palpable, if vague, “change in the air” in new zones of urban revitalization and port development in contemporary China. Drawing from various examples of air’s tactile circulation through the rezoned areas of coastal Fuzhou (e.g., the free trade port area, the touristic city center), I show how redevelopment as filtered through “the rule of law” still politically and literally stinks for those caught up in its environs. But against instrumental readings of the dysfunctions and failures of China’s recent legal reforms, my aim is to explore how “the law” actually works through its very malfunctions and spread of bad airs to shape a distinctive atmospherics of protest in citizen-state encounters; this includes gathering unlikely allies together under a shared cloud of political disaffection and procedural noise to ponder the revolutionary and everyday possibilities of social change beyond the governing logics of “reform.”
About the speaker:
Julie Y. Chu is an anthropologist at the University of Chicago with interests in mobility and migration, economy and value, material culture, media and technology, state regulatory regimes, China and the United States. She is the author of Cosmologies of Credit: Transnational Mobility and the Politics of Destination in China. Her current project is entitled, The Hinge of Time: Infrastructure and Chronopolitics at China's Global Edge. Based on fieldwork in transit zones between Southern China and the United States, this project analyzes the various infrastructures in place (legal-rational, cosmic, piratical) for managing the temporal intensities and rhythms of people and things on the move.
Image credit: Smoke rises over damaged containers and cars after a huge explosion rocked the port city of North China’s Tianjin, August 13, 2015. [Photo/CFP]