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In Search of Paradise: Middle-Class Living in a Chinese Metropolis (Paperback)

Li Zhang

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ISBN 10: 0801475627 / ISBN 13: 9780801475627
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Paperback. A new revolution in homeownership and living has been sweeping the booming cities of China. This time the main actors on the social stage are not peasants, migrants, or working-class prole.Shipping may be from multiple locations in the US or from the UK, depending on stock availability. 248 pages. 0.358. Bookseller Inventory # 9780801475627

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Title: In Search of Paradise: Middle-Class Living ...

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition:New

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A new revolution in homeownership and living has been sweeping the booming cities of China. This time the main actors on the social stage are not peasants, migrants, or working-class proletariats but middle-class professionals and entrepreneurs in search of a private paradise in a society now dominated by consumerism. No longer seeking happiness and fulfillment through collective sacrifice and socialist ideals, they hope to find material comfort and social distinction in newly constructed gated communities. This quest for the good life is profoundly transforming the physical and social landscapes of urban China.

Li Zhang, who is from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, turns a keen ethnographic eye on her hometown. She combines her analysis of larger political and social issues with fine-grained details about the profound spatial, cultural, and political effects of the shift in the way Chinese urban residents live their lives and think about themselves. In Search of Paradise is a deeply informed account of how the rise of private homeownership is reconfiguring urban space, class subjects, gender selfhood, and ways of life in the reform era.

New, seemingly individualistic lifestyles mark a dramatic move away from yearning for a social utopia under Maoist socialism. Yet the privatization of property and urban living have engendered a simultaneous movement of public engagement among homeowners as they confront the encroaching power of the developers. This double movement of privatized living and public sphere activism, Zhang finds, is a distinctive feature of the cultural politics of the middle classes in contemporary China. Theoretically sophisticated and highly accessible, Zhang's account will appeal not only to those interested in China but also to anyone interested in spatial politics, middle-class culture, and postsocialist governing in a globalizing world.

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"The emergence of an increasingly assertive Chinese middle class, aware of its rights but selectively attentive to the civic values that speculators and developers frequently trample underfoot, infuses both the analytic precision and the passionate chiaroscuro of In Search of Paradise. Against the appalling backdrop of the construction laborers' living conditions and of massive patterns of eviction and dislocation, Zhang shows how realtors deploy national laws and socialist and environmental values, with a sometimes self-interested cynicism that nevertheless also answers to the drive to generate a wholesale spatial restructuring--from face-lifts to high-rise fortresses--of Chinese society and subjectivity."--Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University, author of Evicted from Eternity: The Restructuring of Modern Rome

"Li Zhang's perceptive analysis of the 'spatialization of class' and its role in the emergence of a new middle class offers important insights into a Chinese version of modernization and urban development while also uncovering the unstable and complex ways in which spatial transformation creates new forms of identity and experiences of urbanity. Our ability to understand the impact of increasing private home ownership globally depends on this kind of in-depth culturally, politically, and economically informed ethnography. The regional city of Kunming, scarred and deprived of its historical and architectural heritage, becomes the image of modernity and the answer to the dreams of the Chinese middle class and their search for a modern future. But at the same time something is lost and homeowners along with other citizens begin to struggle against the government and private developers who are capitalizing on the remaking of the urban landscape."--Setha Low, Professor of Anthropology, Geography, and Environmental Psychology, CUNY Graduate Center, author of Behind the Gates and On the Plaza

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