Cities in Motion: Interior, Coast, and Diaspora in Transnational China

By Oakes, Tim | The China Journal, January 2009 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Cities in Motion: Interior, Coast, and Diaspora in Transnational China


Oakes, Tim, The China Journal


Cities in Motion: Interior, Coast, and Diaspora in Transnational China, edited by Sherman Cochrane and David Strand. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 2007. 313 pp. US$25.00 (paperback).

Cities in Motion is a loose collection of essays exploring Chinese cities "not as stand alone entities but as the sites of enterprise and action that extend beyond city walls, city limits, and regional and national boundaries" (p. 2). Ostensibly, then, the volume examines early-twentieth-century China from the perspective of translocal and transnational urban networks and hierarchies, with a focus on the movements and flows of people and things along these networks and hierarchies. This topic puts the volume's editors, and several of its contributors, in direct conversation with the work of G. William Skinner and with the legacy of Skinner's work in China studies. Like Skinner before them, the editors and contributors to Cities in Motion are interested in how urban centers are linked to each other in networks and hierarchies not primarily defined by political-administrative relationships. Unlike Skinner, however, these authors find much local variation, contingency and ambiguity in analyzing the nature of urban networks and the flows that link them together.

Cities in Motion is thus positioned to weigh in on the surprising persistence of what we might refer to as the "Skinnerian paradigm" in China studies. Indeed, several chapters take Skinner's approach to task for being, as Brett Sheehan puts it in his chapter on Republican-era banking networks, "too simplistic and too rigid" (p. 83). Sheehan adds: "Local details and particularities are as important as meta-theories in understanding urban systems" (p. 83). Similarly, Elizabeth Sinn's chapter on Hong Kong's role in the repatriation of corpses between diaspora communities abroad and home places in China points up the role of Hong Kong as a significant outlier in Skinner's framework. Her chapter notes the important role played by transnational networks in China's urban system and how these networks defined "a very different spatiality from that examined by Skinner" (p. 251). Robert Weiler and C. Julia Huang's chapter on the transnational Compassion Relief movement offers a fascinating account of how "alternative religious spaces" influence urban networks. Playing off Skinner's use of central places in his models, Weiler and Huang ask what happens to our understanding of networks and hierarchies when central places are defined by charismatic, rather than economic or political, power. They find that "charisma creates its own kinds of centrality" which complicate the straightforward assumptions of Skinner's approach (p. 294).

Despite these important interventions, Cities in Motion is only loosely organized around the theme of interrogating Skinner's legacy. The editors have collected a broad array of empirical studies of movements within China's urban networks, but only those mentioned above address Skinner's models directly. Caroline Reeves examines the infusions of modernity into traditional burial practices in the treatment of corpses during the 1911 Revolution; Kristin Stapleton explores the impact of war on Republican urban administration; Allison Rottman looks at Communist recruitment in wartime Shanghai; Vimalin Rujivacharakul discusses the transnational contexts in which China's "heroic" urban architects emerged; Karl Gerth writes about the fusion of consumerism and nationalism in Shanghai's fashion industry; Klaus Mühlhahn looks at the role of prisons in establishing modern norms of urban administration in China; and Madeline Hsu explores the transnational norms of homeosociality among the bachelor communities of Chinese men in California.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Cities in Motion: Interior, Coast, and Diaspora in Transnational China
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?