Better city, better life? The ‘fate’ of the displacees from the Shanghai World Expo 2010
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With the ascendency of neoliberal ideology, mega-events have been increasingly used by ruling elites as part of a narrative of competitive progress in order to attract investment capital. Unfortunately, the dark side of mega-events has not received enough attention in existing literature, especially the critically important question of displacement and forced eviction because of such events. This thesis contributes to the literature by debunking the myths of mega-events and examining the domicide effects through an in-depth case study of the Shanghai World Expo. Theoretically, the thesis develops the notion of domicide by incorporating the literature on domination and subordination. It attempts to negotiate the tension between the subjective experience of victimhood and the objective process of victimisation in domcide. In analysing the domicide experiences, this thesis proposes to look into both the temporalities and spatialities of domicide, and to examine the variegated ways the displaced appropriate them. It questions how the morally, legally and politically problematic act of domicide is committed without effective forms of resistance. Empirically, this thesis offers a post hoc impact assessment of the ‘best ever’ World Expo and voices the suppressed outcries from those on the receiving end. It supplies a detailed account of the social production of domicide with a case from the Global South, and in doing so; it explores ‘actually existing neoliberalism’ in the Chinese context, expanding the geographical horizon in existing literature and enhancing our understanding of the articulation of neoliberalism in different localities. Although contextualised through the lens of mega-events, the conditions, mechanisms, process and tactics that provide the fertile soil for domicide as identified in this thesis can teach us a great deal about urban spatial practices elsewhere. The thesis draws upon the data collected through site-intensive ethnographic fieldwork, mixing the use of interviews, (non-)participatory observation, survey, unorthodox focus groups and media content. It argues that the exceptionality of the World Expo revokes political, moral and legal boundaries in causing pain to affected citizens in order to facilitate the accumulation of capital. Such exceptionality is constructed through various normative discourses. Those discourses and values naturalise and legitimatise the process of domicide, produce symbolic violence, and undermine the solidarity of the powerlessness. The submission of the displaced to the dominant power enables the production and reproduction of a repressive social and spatial structure. These are vitally important questions given the international focus on China’s economic growth and urbanisation.