Current Institutional Affiliation
Professor, Architecture, University of Sydney

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 1999
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Architecture, University of California / Berkeley
Building the Chinese Work Unit: Modernity, Scarcity, and Space, 1949-2000

The work unit (danwei) is the major socio-spatial form to organize contemporary Chinese cities. In this project, I will study the spatiality of the work unit as a constitutive element of social processes. I argue that the distinctive spatial arrangement of the work unit is not the passive reflection of the society; rather it actively involves in the processes of the construction, reproduction, and transformation of contemporary Chinese Society. I will test three major hypotheses: (1) during the early period of Communist rule, the process of producing the very shape of the work unit was part of the process of establishing the new socialist order; (2) during the Maoist period, the spatiality of the work unit was manipulated by the state to consolidate social order and sinuate hegemony into the texture of everyday life, although the idealized schemes were sometimes dodged by recipients; (3) during the post-Mao era, the changing work unit space guides and constrains action and thought in the face of profound shifts targeted at “using capitalism to build socialism.” The study rests upon an integration of the theory of structuration and the conceptualization of space as a fundamental category of politics. The study is the first attempt to examine the intertwined relations between space and socialist hegemony. It will serve as a solod base for dialectical reformulations concerning space and society. It will also offer a concrete object for comparative industrial sociology.