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“Snail Households”: Containerization of Migrant Housing on Shanghai's Fringe

“Snail Households”: Containerization of Migrant Housing on Shanghai's Fringe China's escalated infrastructural building and real estate development have gradually erased urban villages and reduced affordable living space for rural-to-urban migrants. This article showcases the emerging practice of container housing among low-income migrants, based on ethnographic data collected between 2016 and 2018 in Shanghai. Such “snail households” living in removable cargo containers and prefabricated metal shelters represent a submissive coping mechanism in response to demolition and eviction, to reduce living cost and stay put on the urban fringe. This article examines the containerization of migrant housing, a process of sociospatial reconfiguration of migrant livelihood that has become increasingly precarious during China's economic restructuring in the twenty-first century. It shows how container housing reifies the state capitalist mode of production and accumulation. The containerization of migrant housing entails a multifaceted process of extraction of labor and land, during which migrants’ mobility and sense of entitlement are highly contained. Container housing represents migrants’ sociospatial precarity in China's exclusive urban citizenship and place-specific property regime. It symbolizes a reinforced subaltern position of migrants subdued in the politics of accumulation, which contributes to the lack of strong resistance and collective action amid forced eviction. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png positions Duke University Press

“Snail Households”: Containerization of Migrant Housing on Shanghai's Fringe

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Copyright
Copyright 2022 by Duke University Press
ISSN
1067-9847
eISSN
1527-8271
DOI
10.1215/10679847-9723724
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

China's escalated infrastructural building and real estate development have gradually erased urban villages and reduced affordable living space for rural-to-urban migrants. This article showcases the emerging practice of container housing among low-income migrants, based on ethnographic data collected between 2016 and 2018 in Shanghai. Such “snail households” living in removable cargo containers and prefabricated metal shelters represent a submissive coping mechanism in response to demolition and eviction, to reduce living cost and stay put on the urban fringe. This article examines the containerization of migrant housing, a process of sociospatial reconfiguration of migrant livelihood that has become increasingly precarious during China's economic restructuring in the twenty-first century. It shows how container housing reifies the state capitalist mode of production and accumulation. The containerization of migrant housing entails a multifaceted process of extraction of labor and land, during which migrants’ mobility and sense of entitlement are highly contained. Container housing represents migrants’ sociospatial precarity in China's exclusive urban citizenship and place-specific property regime. It symbolizes a reinforced subaltern position of migrants subdued in the politics of accumulation, which contributes to the lack of strong resistance and collective action amid forced eviction.

Journal

positionsDuke University Press

Published: Aug 1, 2022

References