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Space as method: field sites and encounters in Beijing’s green belts

Zhao, Yimin (2017) Space as method: field sites and encounters in Beijing’s green belts. City: Analysis of Urban Trends, Culture, Theory, Policy, Action. pp. 190-206. ISSN 1470-3629

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Identification Number: 10.1080/13604813.2017.1353342


Great urban transformations are diffusing across the Global South, removing the original landscape of urban margins to make of them a new urban frontier. These processes raise questions of both validity and legitimacy for ethnographic practice, requiring critical reflection on both spatiality and method in fieldwork at the urban margins. This article draws on fieldwork experience in Beijing’s green belts, which could also be labeled the city’s urban margin or frontier, to reflect on the space-time of encounter in the field. I aim to demonstrate how space foregrounds not only our bodily experiences but also ethnographic investigations of the daily life, and hence becomes a method. Beijing’s green belts symbolise a historical-geographical conjuncture (a moment) emerging in its urban metamorphosis. Traditional endeavours (immanent in various spatial metaphors) to identify field sites as reified entities are invalidated over the course of the space-time encounter, requiring a relational spatial ontology to register such dynamics. The use in fieldwork of DiDi Hitch, a mobile app for taxi-hailing and hitchhiking, reveals the spatiotemporal construction of self-other relations needing recognition via the dialectics of the encounter. In this relational framework, an encounter is never a priori but a negotiation of a here-and-now between different trajectories and stories as individuals are thrown together in socially constructed space and time.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2017 Informa UK
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2017 10:29
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 02:33

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