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In Session: Reconceptualizing Migration and Displacement in Extraordinary Times
Segregated Development, Financial Speculation, and the Modality of Waiting among Resettled Peasants in Urban China
Monday, March 22, 2021
10:00am – 11:30am EDT
Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
Since the late 2000s, many rural-to-urban migrants in China have lost their rural land to development plans, have subsequently resettled in designated areas, and have acquired formal urban residency. They stop migrating, and have apparently ended their life of ‘suspension,’ namely protracted mobility. While most existing research literature on this population foregrounds the issue of land dispossession, this article argues that these former migrants’ livelihoods after resettlement are defined by segregation and financialization. This has put them in a reconfigured condition of suspension. Many resettled youths, while have secured livelihood thanks to state compensations, are excluded from the technology- and capital-intensive developments to which they lose their land. Some youths instead became petty speculators and rentier capitalists by liquidating their compensated assets through mortgages, private lending, rent, and other financial means. They are constantly on the waiting for the next investment opportunity and windfall gains. Although physically settled down and economically secured, they remain anxious and unsettled. They still orient their life towards an elusive future, rather than strive to transform here and now. Their experiences demonstrate that development in China is contingent and complexed, where gain and loss, exclusion and inclusion, and participation and deprivation can take place at the same time.