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You are here: Home / Events / International seminars / Axe 4 : Contexts, situations and cross-views on sociological practices / Workshop "Urbanization, segregation and justice in European and Chinese Cities"

Workshop "Urbanization, segregation and justice in European and Chinese Cities"

March 12, 2015 Professeur Liu Neng, Peking University, department of sociology, Triangle laboratory

From 1949 to 1979, the urbanization process stagnated in China before entering a period of considerable acceleration in tandem with industrialization. In Europe these two processes were spread over several centuries but only in two decades in China. This leads to the appearance of specifically Chinese economic and social phenomena which have been the subject of much recent research. The specificity of these processes has raised questions which have not really been asked in Western Europe.

We shall distinguish different boundaries in Chinese and European cities. These colonial, ethnic, social and economic boundaries are the expression of multiple dominations, which always adopts different forms and, above all, that become entangled in differentiated modes that are producing inequalities which are situated.

Contemporary Chinese cities are characterized by new urban hierarchies, which are less contrasted than in European cities, since they are scattered around the city and concentrated in certain specific areas. Individuals and social groups are caught between assignment to certain localities and flowing through the city. Depending on the moment, life phase or situation, they may seem to be trapped or able to move. Contemporary cities may have different forms of segregation, but they still allow access to different kinds of space and provide renewed opportunities to individuals and groups, making it possible to enter high legitimacy urban spaces as demonstrated by some migrant workers who construct and experience upward social mobility

Furthermore, new risks of health, food, floods, environment and ecological disasters have produced uncertain situations, new public spaces and new inequalities in European and Chinese cities. Risks and disasters are social phenomena rather than natural events striking societies from the outside and are caused by social and economic vulnerabilities.

In these contexts of more or less uncertainty and of high social and physical liability, collective action and social mobilizations emerge and reveal new forms of citizenship in a new local and global public space. In this respect, new forms of citizenships are productive of new social exchanges, new solidarities, new moral economies, related to social inequalities in contemporary societies in turmoil. Individuals and social groups compete for material and social goods, emergent moral economies produce new social and economic frontiers, new social and moral orders where individuals and groups have to occupy new positions and statuses in European and Chinese cities.


2:00 pm-2:20 pm: Introduction by Laurence Roulleau-Berger, Research Director at CNRS, Co-Director of the LIA, Triangle : Urbanization, segregation and justice in European and Chinese cities

2:20 pm- 3:05 pm: Liu Neng, Professor at Department of Sociology, Beijing University: The Urban Questions: Mapping the Social and Political Roots of Chinese Urbanization, 1978-2015


In this lecture, we will go over the whole process of Chinese urbanization since 1978, when China re-connected to the outside world in the name of “Open and Reform” after decades of Leftist(Maoist?) ruling. Three theoretical threads have been followed in order to explain the dramatic, and sometimes painstaking, fast urbanization that has absorbed almost every Chinese citizen in, and at the same time shaped their social destination in respective ways. First of all, we will discuss the population mobility, mainly rural to urban, that caused by an eventually capitalized and rationalized market economy, and the great social history of migration in contemporary China since early 1980s. Second, we will review the history of the marketisation of housing in the urban sector since late 1990s, which has greatly changed the Chinese urban landscape thus far. And finally, we will focus on the political economy of land- centered financial practices of local governments at every level, to manifest the historical dilemma of “a development without people”.

Liu Neng is currently professor and PhD supervisor at Beijing University’s sociology department, and deputy director of Center for Sociological Research and Development Studies, Beijing University. He received his PhD in sociology from Beijing University at 1998, and BA and MA in sociology from Nankai University [Tianjin, China]. His main research interests include: social movements, urban studies, deviance and social problems, and youth studies. His most influential academic publications include: “Grievance Interpretation, Mobilization Structure, and Rational Choice: On the Future of Chinese Urban Collective Actions” Open Times, 2004; “AIDS, Stigma, and Social Discrimination” Chinese Sociological Review, 2006; “Collective Actions in Changing Contemporary Chinese Society: An Overview of Three Waves of Collective Actions in the Last Three Decades”. Academia Bimestris, 2009 (4): 146-152 ; Perceiving Local Governmental Processes from a Social Network and a Hierarchical Perspective: A Case Study of North Town Social Sciences Litterature Press, Beijing, 2008. The Strength of Alliance. Beijing: Peking University Press, 2012 ; with Di, Lei, “Social Interactions and Community Identity in a Heterogeneous Residential Enclave in Suburban Beijing: The Case Study of Sha Village”. Journal of Harbin Institute of Technology (Social Sciences Edition), 2014 (2): 25-29.

3:05 pm-3:50 pm: Valérie Sala Pala, Professor of political science, University Jean Monnet, Saint-Etienne, Triangle: The institutional production of segregation and populating: social housing policies and practices in French and British cities.

Segregation is often seen as a “natural” fact or as the result of individual processes. What is argued here is that social and ethnic segregation is to a large extent an institutional product, and especially a product of social housing policies and practices. This is particularly the case in some European cities in which social housing has historically played a crucial role in the production of the urban space. This thesis will be developed through a comparison between British and French cities (with Birmingham and Marseilles as case studies). This comparison shows the existence of an institutional production of segregation in both national contexts, but it also shows striking differences in the way in which social housing policies and practices shape the populating of urban spaces in each national context.

Valérie Sala Pala is a political scientist at the University Jean Monnet, Saint-Etienne. Her research focuses on the political sociology of ethnicity, discrimination, segregation, urban policies, and urban social movements, in a comparative perspective. She has recently published Discriminations ethniques. Les politiques du logement social en France et au Royaume-Uni (Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2013) and co-edited, with Fabien Desage and Christelle Morel Journel, Le peuplement comme politiques (Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2014). She is also the author of several articles in international journals such as American Behavioral Scientist (2010), Ethnicities (2009), French Politics, Culture and Society (2006).

4:00pm-4:45 pm: Guillaume Faburel, Professor at Université Lyon 2, Triangle: Environmental inequalities and “just (fair? Right?) city”: towards a cosmopolitical perspective for urban policies

The global urbanization and metropolisation phenomena lead return of questions about justice in the city. Between social, spatial and environmental justices, the concept of "just city" appeared in recent years. Here we show that it brings a cosmopolitical approach of environmental justice to this concept, and what it could bring to urban policies of metropolitan cities in terms of “right to the city”. 

Guillaume Faburel is Professor at University Lyon 2, teaching also at Sciences Po Lyon and Sciences Po Lille. He was Research Fellow Invited at M.I.T. in 2001-2002. His scientific works and lessons focuses on ecological crises for urban policies, sustainable cities and urban planning, environmental justice in urban settings and new forms of involvements in urban lifestyles. He recently began coordinating the Urban studies field at Triangle Laboratory, and coordinates the 4th Metropolis Workshop Unit at LabEx IMU (Smartness on Urban Worlds).

4:45 pm-5:45 pm: Discussion by Bruno Cousin, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Lille 1, CLERSE 

Program PDF