Handbook of Urban Geography
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Handbook of Urban Geography

Edited by Tim Schwanen and Ronald van Kempen

This collection brings together the latest thinking in urban geography. It provides a comprehensive overview of topical issues and draws on experiences from across the world. Chapters have been prepared by leading researchers in the field and cover themes as diverse as urban economies, inequalities and diversity, conflicts and politics, ecology and sustainability, and information technologies. The Handbook offers a valuable resource for students and researchers interested in cities and the urban in geography and across the wider social sciences.
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Chapter 26: The right to the city: theoretical outline and reflections on migrants’ activism in post-reform urban China

Junxi Qian and Shenjing He


This chapter first reviews the proliferating literature on the thesis of the right to the city and sketches out its theoretical contour. It then moves to a brief review of studies which use the notion of the right to the city for understanding grassroots urban activisms in a global context. Finally, this chapter applies the framework of the right to the city to evaluate the recent status and progress of grassroots activism of rural migrants. We argue that, because migrant organizations are seriously co-opted by state authority, they are still far removed from the ideal of struggling for the right to the city. Nevertheless, drawing from a migrant NGO in Beijing, we suggest that grassroots activism contributes to a nascent struggle for the right to the city, characterized by the collective identity of a new working class, and consciousness of the subsumption of lived experiences by the logic of capital.

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