Developing indifference: Youth, place-making and belonging in a transforming urban China

Maria Nolan


  • This article examines the social impacts of urban change among a generation of people for whom it is the norm: youth in Beijing, where decades of redevelopment have led to large-scale demolition of older neighborhoods and a perpetually changing cityscape. Studies have shown that redevelopment has led to the breakdown of traditional social bonds in China’s cities, and that citizens relocated from older to newer neighborhoods may feel both a heightened sense of privacy and a greatly diminished sense of attachment to their surroundings. Today’s urban youth, however, were born into such rapidly evolving and increasingly privatized environments. Drawing from twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork, I explore the extent to which these youth, accustomed to privatized and digitalized home lifestyles, experience a lack of attachment to their urban environs, and illustrate how such feelings may be articulated. Ongoing urban redevelopment, taking place alongside shifts in social life facilitated by digital media, can, I argue, produce in young urban residents a sense of place characterized by learned indifference.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/717515