Published online by Cambridge University Press: 15 November 2013
Oral accounts of life over seven decades in Dashalanr, a popular neighbourhood in central Beijing, reveal a social world that despite being shaped by the state's policies of social and political classification, housing and employment, has been resistant to complete appropriation by them. Based on research in the neighbourhood since 2005, and drawing on Xuanwu District archives, this article examines local residents’ accounts of long decades of hardship and neglect. With an analytical framework that links gender with temporality, place and space, it suggests ways in which their singular experiences can be read as historical narrative.
4 Richard Belsky argues that in contrast to Shanghai, native-place lodges in Beijing were by the early Republican period increasingly seen as vestiges of the past, decades before they were condemned as ‘feudal remnants’ by the new government in 1949. Belsky, R., Localities at the Center: Native Place, Space and Power in Late Imperial Beijing (Cambridge, MA, 2005), 248–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
5 Strand, D., Rickshaw Beijing: City People and Politics in the 1920s (Berkeley, 1989)Google Scholar. The dazayuan where my local acquaintances live mostly date back to the early Republican era. A report in the Beijing Morning News (Beijing Chenbao) of 17 Sep. 1936 noted that ‘apart from those [courtyards] allocated for government use and those owned by the bourgeoisie, the rest . . . have changed from single to multiple family residences (dazayuan)’. A 1930s survey estimated that the average size of dwelling in these mixed courtyards was 2.6–3.7 metres long by 2.2–2.9 metres wide. Soon after 1949, 20% of all such houses were reported to be ‘dangerous, crowded, and leaking’. Beijing zhi, Shizheng juan, Fangdichan zhi (Beijing Annals, Volume on Municipal Administration, Property Annals) (Beijing, 2000), 32–3.
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14 All names in this article are pseudonyms, to protect the identity of my informants.
15 Even in its ruined state, this could be thought of as a local lieu de mémoire, although in contrast to Pierre Nora's elaboration of the term (Nora, P., Les lieux de mémoire, vol. I (Paris, 1984)Google Scholar, local residents do not inscribe in it a broader notion of the nation.
16 For a description of Dashalanr's conditions in the mid-2000s, inherited from the 1950s, see Zhu, M. (ed.) Beijing chengqu jiaoluo diaocha (Investigation of Urban Corners in Beijing) (Beijing, 2005), 77–9, 213–17Google Scholar.
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23 State appropriation of provincial lodges (huiguan) for use as schools, kindergartens, factories and officies, as well as residential properties ironically meant that ‘despite all the rhetoric of destroying the past to build the new’ characteristic of the Mao period, the physical structures of the native-place lodges were for the most part much better preserved during that period than they have been during the subsequent decades of post-Mao reform’. Belsky, Localities at the Center, 257.
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26 N. Ou, Meishi Jie (Meishi Street), documentary film (2006).
27 ‘ . . . critics of high-rise apartment housing often point to the indifference that characterizes relations between their residents. However, . . . in the one-storey courtyard houses, close relations among the residents do not necessarily mean intimate relations. Their interaction is forced upon them by tight circumstances and entails a fundamental disruption of privacy.’ Wu, L., Rehabilitating the Old City of Beijing: A Project in the Ju'er Hutong Neighbourhood (Vancouver, 1999), 114Google Scholar.
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40 XWDG, 13-1-34, 4.