Calculating Needs and Prescribing Properties: Chaiqian and the Commensuration of Value at Nanjing's Urban Edge

Journal Article

Abstract This article examines how local governments calculate and allocate compensation to displaced peasants in demolition-relocation projects, known as chaiqian 拆迁 (demolition and relocation projects), at the urban edge of eastern Nanjing. Based on twenty months of ethnographic fieldwork, this article shows that, contrary to popular imaginings, chaiqian in Nanjing do not exclude peasants from urban development but seek to exploit the uneven urban and rural property regimes and bring rural spaces, including people, real estate, and crops, into the urban system. The government-developer growth coalition, motivated by real estate–driven urban expansion, engineers this process with the aid of calculative technologies and protocols of commensuration. Moreover, technocrats such as chaiqian cadres and urban planners can never fully translate rural real estate into monetary value. They have to constantly update and negotiate protocols of calculation with property-owning villagers to solve emerging issues of commensuration. The villagers, on the other hand, engage with these technologies of valuation to raise claims to a larger share of wealth in chaiqian compensation. Demolition and relocation projects thus are not merely the execution of a developmental ideal but assemble urban accumulation as an ongoing process of value translation and transformation. They also show how urban accumulation at the edge of eastern Nanjing is a contested hegemonic process.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Wang, M

Published Date

  • August 1, 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 30 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 501 - 521

Published By

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1527-8271

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1067-9847

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1215/10679847-9723698

Language

  • en