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The City in ChinaNew Perspectives on Contemporary Urbanism$
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Ray Forrest, Julie Ren, and Bart Wissink

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781529205473

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781529205473.001.0001

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Learning from Chicago (and LA)?

Learning from Chicago (and LA)?

The Contemporary Relevance of Western Urban Theory for China

Chapter:
(p.61) 4 Learning from Chicago (and LA)?
Source:
The City in China
Author(s):

Bart Wissink

Publisher:
Policy Press
DOI:10.1332/policypress/9781529205473.003.0004

This chapter questions the contemporary relevance of Western urban theory for China. It argues that urban theory generally prioritises time over space, stressing the universal character of urban transformation in different places. Meanwhile Western cities are presented as prototypes of this transformation. Human ecology, for instance presented Chicago as model of modern urbanism, while the L.A. School of urbanism sees Los Angeles as the epitome of the post-modern period. Debunking the underlying assumption of singular urban logics and development trajectories, the chapter then takes inspiration from modes of theorising that focus on the localisation of global developments in specific cities and develop related localised conceptualisations. It employs this perspective to reflect on the urban China literature. Acknowledging that this literature has come a long way in a short time, it suggests that urban China research borrows concepts from the Western urban studies literature with ease, but that comparisons at the same time are short-circuited with reference to Chinese ‘exceptionalism’. This is mirrored in a remarkable underrepresentation of Chinese urban scholars in the comparative urbanism discussion. Research into Chinese ‘gated communities’ is then presented as illustration. The chapter concludes that there is considerable scope for conceptual renewal, which would benefit both urban China research and the urban studies literature in general.

Keywords:   Universal theory, Comparative urbanism, Exceptionalism, Robert Park, L.A. school, Enclave urbanism, China

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