Shenzhen+China, Utopias+Dystopias Conference

When 12 Mar 2011
9:30AM - 4:45PM
Where MIT Department of Architecture
77 Massachusetts Ave, Building 7: Audio Visual Theater (7-431)
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States
Enquiry 617.258.8438

An Interdisciplinary Conference organized and hosted by the History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art Program, with additional funding from the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, and the Office of the Provost.

Saturday, March 12, 2011
MIT Department of Architecture
Building 7: Audio Visual Theater (7-431)

In 1979 when the People’s Republic of China embarked on its current course of economic liberalization, the city of Shenzhen was created as a new model city for policy experimentation and global contact. Shenzhen’s very existence amounted to a tacit acknowledgement of the failures of socialism to provide for the communist society once promised, and a host of new institutions, laws, and opportunities were assembled alongside China’s first skyscrapers and amusement parks. Three decades later, while the promises of post-socialist plenty and international parity has been achieved in so many respects, Shenzhen remains a model of China’s recent economic achievements but has also come to represent a dystopia of industrialization and urbanization. Unequal citizenship, quasi-legality, corruption, exploitation, and the rebirth of the propaganda apparatus closely accompany Shenzhen’s success and render its achievements widely questioned. The inequities brought upon by a fast-developing China is intensified outside the PRC, where growing Chinese economic strength is more often than not posed as a threat to everything from liberal democracy to environmental protection to human rights. This conference convenes scholars in humanities and social science whose newest research examines the utopian and dystopian dynamics of the Chinese reform period in Shenzhen and beyond. Employing historical and comparative perspectives in the areas of health, labor, law, art, and urbanism, we examine the historical and transnational trajectories of the enormous changes within contemporary Chinese society as represented first, in Shenzhen’s rise, and second, in the global imagination of China’s post-socialist future.

Free and Open to the Public
For more information please contact Winnie Wong:


** 9:30 :::: Welcome **
Adele Naude Santos
Dean, Architecture and Planning, MIT

** 9:45-10:45 :::: Introduction **
Repairing Modernity: Utopian Discourse in and about Shenzhen
Mary Ann O’Donnell
Independent Scholar, Anthropology, Shenzhen

** 10:45-12:30 :::: Utopian China **
The Urban Sprawl of ‘Beautiful Pictures on a Blank Sheet’: Contradictions in Chinese Urbanism
Samuel Liang
Visiting Lecturer, History Theory Criticism, MIT

Shenzhen’s Urban Villages: From Tradition to Development
Tunney Lee
Professor Emeritus, Architecture and City Planning, MIT

Frontier for China Dreams: Peasants and Workers at the World Expo
Winnie Wong
Junior Fellow, Art History, Harvard Society of Fellows

From Made in Shenzhen to Created in Shenzhen
Jonathan Bach
Associate Professor, International Affairs, The New School

Mark Jarzombek
Associate Dean, Architecture and Planning, MIT

** 2:00-4:45 :::: Dystopian China **
Product or Person? (Chinese) Humanity in ‘Body Worlds’ and Beyond
Larissa Heinrich
Associate Professor, Chinese Literature and Culture Studies, UCSD

“We Are the Chinese”: Italians Spy Flexible Chinese and Discover Themselves, Sort Of
Elizabeth Krause
Associate Professor, Anthropology, UMass Amherst

Apocalyptic Shenzhen? Dystopian Visions after SARS and H1N1
Katherine Mason
PhD Candidate, Anthropology, Harvard

Red China; Green China; Black China: Making Untamed Histories Against the China Brand
Meiling Cheng
Associate Professor, Theatre/Critical Studies, USC

Caroline Jones
Director, History Theory Criticism, MIT