New Publication by Research Student Yimin Zhao ‘Space as method’

UPD cluster’s former research student Yimin Zhao has recently published ‘Space as Method: Field sites and encounters in Beijing’s green belts’ in the journal City: Analysis of Urban Trends, Culture, Theory, Policy Action. This publication follows Yimin’s successful completion of this PhD thesis, which he defended in September 2017.

Article Abstract: Great urban transformations are diffusing across the global South, removing the original landscape of urban margins to make of them a new urban frontier. These processes raise questions of both validity and legitimacy for ethnographic practice, requiring critical reflection on both spatiality and method in fieldwork at the urban margins. This paper draws on fieldwork experience in Beijing’s green belts, which could also be labelled the city’s urban margin or frontier, to reflect on the space-time of encounter in the field. I aim to demonstrate how space foregrounds not only our bodily experiences but also ethnographic investigations of the daily life, and hence becomes a method. Beijing’s green belts symbolise a historical–geographical conjuncture (a moment) emerging in its urban metamorphosis. Traditional endeavours (immanent in various spatial metaphors) to identify field sites as reified entities are invalidated over the course of the space-time encounter, requiring a relational spatial ontology to register such dynamics. The use in fieldwork of DiDi Hitch, a mobile app for taxi-hailing and hitchhiking, reveals the spatiotemporal construction of self–other relations needing recognition via the dialectics of the encounter. In this relational framework, an encounter is never a priori but a negotiation of a here and now between different trajectories and stories as individuals are thrown together in socially constructed space and time.

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