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The End of the Village

Tue, Feb 15, 2022    7pm

Nick R. Smith in conversation with Wing-Shing Tang, Deborah Davis, and Andrew Kipnis, moderated by Xiaobo Lü and chaired by Weiping Wu, Interim Dean, Professor, and Director of the Urban Planning Program at GSAPP.

This lecture will be presented virtually, please register in advance for the Zoom webinar link.

Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, China has dramatically expanded its urbanization processes in an effort to reduce the inequalities between urban and rural areas. New development programs, including “urban-rural coordination”, “new-type urbanization”, and, most recently, “rural revitalization”, are restructuring China’s urban–rural relations and imposing novel forms of state-led urbanization onto the countryside. Rural simulacra, such as high-rise new towns, ecological protection zones, historical tourism sites, and industrialized farms, increasingly reflect planners’ and policy-makers’ urban imaginations of what the rural should be and have more to do with serving urban consumers than ensuring rural welfare. The result is a fundamental rewriting of the nation’s social contract, as villages that once organized rural life and guaranteed rural livelihoods are replaced by an increasingly urbanized landscape dominated by state institutions.

Smith’s recently published book, The End of the Village: Planning the Urbanization of Rural China, explores the contested implementation of this radical new approach to urbanization in the municipality of Chongqing. Drawing on the book’s findings, this interdisciplinary panel brings together leading scholars of Chinese urbanization to discuss the ongoing transformation of China’s urban–rural relations.


Weiping Wu is Professor of Urban Planning, Director of the Urban Planning Program, and Interim Dean at Columbia GSAPP. She also is on the faculty of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and Columbia Population Research Center. Before joining Columbia in 2016, she was Professor and Chair in the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University. Trained in architecture and urban planning, Wu has focused her research and teaching on understanding urban dynamics in developing countries in general and China in particular. She is an internationally acclaimed urban and planning scholar working on global urbanization with a specific expertise in issues of migration, housing, and infrastructure of Chinese cities. Her publications include eight books, as well as many articles in top international journals. Her published work has gained an increasing public presence, particularly her recent book The Chinese City. It offers a critical understanding of China’s urbanization, exploring how the complexity of Chinese cities both conforms to and defies conventional urban theories and experience of cities elsewhere around the world. From 2017 to 2019, Wu was President of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, and from 2008 to 2012 she was an editor of the Journal of Planning Education and Research. She has been a member of the International Advisory Board for the Urban China Research Network, and she serves on the editorial board of four journals.

Xiaobo Lü is the Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Political Science at Barnard College. Lü was the founding Director of Columbia Global Centers | East Asia in Beijing in 2008–10 and is a former director of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University. Lü teaches courses on Chinese politics, political economy, comparative political corruption and it control, and comparative politics, and he is a recipient of the Emily Gregory Award for Excellence in Teaching at Barnard College. As a principal investigator, he was responsible for leading an international research project, “Central-local relations and environmental governance in China”, funded by Global Public Policy Network in 2008–10. Currently he is working on a book manuscript, From Player to Referee: The Rise of the Regulatory State in China. Lü is the author of the book Cadres and Corruption (2000). He is also a co-author of Danwei: Changing Chinese Workplace in Historical and Comparative Perspective (1997). His recent book (with Thomas Bernstein) is on the political and economic changes in the Chinese countryside, Taxation without Representation in Contemporary Rural China (2003). He was visiting professor at Tsinghua University and Jiaotong University in China; City University of Hong Kong; Institute of Political Science (Sciences-Po) and Paris University I-Sorbonne in Paris. Lü serves on the editorial boards of several international scholarly journals, and he is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Committee of 100, and the National Committee of US-China Relations.

Nick R. Smith is an Assistant Professor of Architecture and Urban Studies at Barnard College. He is also a faculty affiliate at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University. Prior to joining Barnard, he was a founding member of the Urban Studies faculty at Yale-NUS College in Singapore. He received his AB (East Asian Studies), AM (Architecture), and PhD (Urban Planning) at Harvard University. Over the past decade, Smith’s work has focused on peri-urban China, where he has conducted extensive research on the development and planning of village communities. In his current research, Smith is investigating industrial zones as historical sites of experimental urbanization in mainland China, Singapore, and Taiwan. Recent work has appeared in Urban Geography, Antipode, Journal of Agrarian Change, Journal of Planning Education and Research, and International Development Planning Review. Smith has held visiting positions at Oxford University (Oxford China Centre), Chongqing University (Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning), and Renmin University (History). In 2011 and 2012, Smith served as Secretary of the International Association for China Planning. He is currently a member of the Advisory Board of the Urban China Research Network, and he serves on the editorial boards of several scholarly journals in urban studies.

Wing-Shing Tang graduated with a BA (Hons) from McGill, MSc in Planning from Toronto and PhD from Cambridge. He was formerly Professor at the Department of Geography, Hong Kong Baptist University, before retirement. His research interests focus on interrogating Lefebvre, Foucault, Harvey and other mainstream urban thinkers with socio-historical processes and patterns of urban development in Hong Kong, mainland China and India, and, concomitantly, formulating new ontology, epistemology and methodology for this cause. His recent research outputs include “Beyond gentrification: hegemonic redevelopment in Hong Kong” (International Journal of Urban and Regional Research); “Land as situated spatio-histories: a dialogue with global urbanism” (with S. Benjamin) (in Global Urbanism: Knowledge, Power and the City); “Town-country relations in China: back to basics” (Eurasian Geography and Economics); “Chinese critical geography: a non-dualistic, tongbian-informed spatial story” (in Placing Critical Geography: Historical Geographies of Critical Geography); and Urban China Reframed (edited with Kam Wing Chan). The research projects in progress include displacing displacement, and theorising post-gentrification.

Deborah Davis joined the Yale Department of Sociology as a lecturer in 1978 and retired as Full Professor in 2018 during which time she held fellowships from the National Academy of Sciences, National Institute of Aging, Luce Foundation, Templeton Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the ACLS. During her forty years on the Yale faculty Davis served as Director of Academic Programs at the Yale Center for Study of Globalization, Chair of the Department of Sociology, and Co-Chair of the Women Faculty Forum. Since 2016 she has been a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Fudan University in Shanghai and on faculty of the Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University. She also serves on the editorial boards of The China Quarterly and The China Review and is a Trustee of the Yale China Association. Currently she is working with Professors Pierre Landry (CUHK) and Chen Juan (HKPU) on the social consequence of uneven urbanization for residents of Chinese cities and with Professor Tian Feng at Fudan University on marriage and housing arrangements among the 80后 generation in Shanghai.

Andrew Kipnis is currently Chair of the Department of Anthropology at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Before moving to CUHK, he was affiliated with the Australian National University, and he received his PhD from the University of North Carolina. His research involves social, cultural and political change in contemporary China. Recent works include The Funeral of Mr. Wang: Life, Death, and Ghosts in Urbanizing China (2021), From Village to City: Social Transformation in a Chinese County Seat (2016), an edited volume entitled Chinese Modernity and the Individual Psyche (2012) and a textbook entitled Contemporary China: Society and Social Change (2013). He has also written books on educational desire and governing, a book on the implications for anthropological theory of issues that arise in the governing of socialist states and a book on patterns of gift giving and social exchange in rural China. Kipnis is co-editor of Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, and from 2006 to 2015 he was co-editor of The China Journal.

Free and open to the public. Hosted by Barnard and Columbia Architecture Department and Barnard–Columbia Urban Studies Program.

In collaboration with Columbia Weatherhead East Asian Institute and Columbia GSAPP.