Edited by Ray Yep, June Wang and Thomas Johnson
Chapter 24: Neighbourhood governance through community social work
In this chapter, I intend to examine the workings of urban governance by focusing on the emerging industry of social work and its practices in neighbourhood governance. The explosive development of social work in cities in China raises a question of its role in the party-state’s ongoing project of ‘community building.’ What does it mean that social workers, who belong to non-governmental social work organizations, are invited as key agents of ‘community,’ which emerged as a new mode of governing urban space in place of the collapsed work-unit system? Fieldwork in southern and northeast cities unveils that regional historicity as well as local finance differentiates the actual practices of community social work. Ethnographic research in a Shenzhen’s Foxconn town reveals how the government purchase of social work services has refashioned ‘community’ as a selectively participatory, technically preoccupied, and politically acceptable site while leading to the resilient expansion of state influence.
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