Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2020
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
College of Environmental Design
Designing a Land Revolution. The Corporate Reinvention of China's Rural Environment

Officially, China's Communist Revolution has not yet ended. In 2014, the Chinese central government initiated a Third Land Revolution, a national development campaign enabling village governments to transfer rural land from local farmers to agribusinesses and tourism corporations. Unlike the First Land Revolution (Mao Zedong's rural collectivization) and the Second Land Revolution (Deng Xiaoping's rural de-collectivization), the central government is now enabling large-scale agriculture firms to appropriate rural collective land and to use it for extracting profit. In order to do this, China's government agencies are mobilizing planning and design institutes, architecture firms, and universities to redesign thousands of rural villages as spaces for intensive food production and ecotourism. Environmental design has become a strategic tool for dissolving rural collectives, transferring collective land management to private corporations, and forcing local villagers to abandon household farming and work the village land as waged laborers. My dissertation project examines this massive design enterprise. If environmental design is a tool for governing rural life and its environment, what physical and social norms are planners, architects, and scientists embodying in their designs? How are such designs implemented? And does the final outcome comply with either the designers or the government's aspirations? I will seek to answer these questions in Hunan province, where the Communist Revolution started. My hosts, the Architecture Department of Hunan University in Changsha, are currently planning all of Hunan's 16,000 rural villages for the provincial government and designing 36 villages for local county governments. For ten months, I will work as an architectural and urban designer on these projects, examining how designers and experts invent new scientific farms, soil laboratories, ecotourism parks, new rural homes, and other spaces constituting corporate villages.