The Right To Hack The City?

Can the city be hacked like an iPhone can? If the city is already produced, then is this actually the best way for urbanites to reclaim agency, rather than fighting for their ‘right to produce the city’?

Clearly, Jordenn and I are still asking questions to try to get at the heart of our research question. In fact, after recently attending the Spatial Politics of Work weekend-long workshop with such an amazing group of scholars, researchers, and designers, I’ve only been asking MORE questions.

While on a FaceTime call with Jordenn, I filled him in on some of the major themes of the weekend, one of which being ‘hacking’. As I learned, hacking culture is huge in Shenzhen. This raised the question: what other than phones and computers can be hacked? A system? A building? What about the city?

This is right in line with our interest in the idea urban resistance, but we agreed that they are not necessarily one in the same. Nevertheless, this is the path we are taking for the time being.

Later that week, I received a few answers to my many questions in a thoughtful discussion I had with a friend I met at the workshop—artist, anthropologist, and longtime Shenzhen resident Mary Ann O’Donnell. When I told her about our desire to look at ways people are resisting, or hacking, the city of Shenzhen, she looked at me as if the answer was written on my forward. “The beauty of China is that its designed to be hacked.” She explained that so much of China—everything from cable TV to a water bill—is expected to be hacked into by its citizens, making it socially acceptable and common behavior. “Non-compliance is an art in China.” Mary Ann finished these statements by prompting me to consider how much of this is just “coping” rather than acts of resistance or defiance.

What a thought! This made me realize that we must question everything, even our own assumptions. Back to the drawing board for Jordenn and I…

NYU Shanghai Fellowship Opportunities

Two positions, at either the predoctoral (ABD) or postdoctoral level, for the study of intra-Asian interactions are
available at the Center for Global Asia at NYU Shanghai. These fellowships are for a period of four months,
commencing anytime between February and 1 May 2016.

Candidates working on any aspect or phase of intra-Asian interactions are welcome to apply, but topics related to
China-South Asia and China-Southeast Asia exchanges and Indian Ocean connections are of particular interest to
the Center.

Applicants for the predoctoral position must have completed all course requirements and should demonstrate
strong reasons for research in China. Those applying for the postdoctoral position are expected to hold a PhD,
preferably completed within the past five years (2010 and after).

For more information download fellowship announcement [pdf here].

New Pulitzer Center Book ‘Ecological Civilization in China’


New Ecological Civilization Book

As many of our readers know, ICI has been increasingly working more on issues related to religion and ecology in the Himalayas. So it is with great interest that we can share some news on this front from China. On June 16, 2015, academics, journalists, scientists, government, religious and business leaders from China, the US and other countries came together for the first time to discuss the environmental challenges facing China and the world—and the increasingly important role of religion and traditional cultures in finding sustainable solutions to the challenges we face.

Earlier this year the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, in conjunction with the Pulitzer Center and Communication University of China, hosted the “International Conference on Ecological Civilization and Environmental Reporting” in Beijing. Just this week the Forum on Religion and Ecology (FORE) at Yale released the proceedings of this conference, titled Ecological Civilization. The report, which summarizes most of the talks and content of the international conference, should be of great interest to any of our members working on environmental issues in China, as well as the intersections of religion and ecology in global environmental discourses.

Here is a brief excerpt from the opening pages of this report by Jon Sawyer, Executive Director of the Pulitzer Center:

It is easy to assume that China’s environmental challenges are China’s alone. The bad air or unsafe food or toxic rivers we read about have no effect on us, we might think, and nothing to do with the world’s demand for the flood of inexpensive, high-quality consumer goods that has fueled the Chinese economic miracle. But “China is a global factory,” says anthropologist Dan Smyer Yu of Yunnan Minzu University. “However you consume, whatever you consume, pay attention to the label ‘Made in China.’ So each of us has a responsibility for the environmental practices of China. China’s environmental issue is a global issue. We have to take responsibility, each of us.”

Smyer Yu was among an extraordinarily diverse group of specialists who gathered at Yale Center Beijing in June to engage an issue that is close to home for us all—the state of our environment. But they also addressed a dimension of this topic that is new, and significant—how our diverse religious and cultural traditions might contribute to assuring a sustainable, healthy world for generations to come.

You can find out more about the conference and the book at the Pulitzer Center.

Download and read the entire conference proceedings book as a pdf [here] or on iTunes [here]. The e-book is also available via Kindle and Atavist.


Tansen Sen on ‘Chinese lessons from Africa’


We’re excited to share the latest post from ICI friend and scholar Tansen Sen in the Times of India. In this post, Professor Sen discusses the role of China in Africa, scholarly efforts to look at Africa and Asia together, and the challenges and opportunities for both China and India in their engagement with African countries.

Here is a brief excerpt from his piece:

India is, compared to China, a latecomer to the geo-politics of the African continent. This is despite the fact that Jawaharlal Nehru had, even prior to Indian independence, launched several initiatives promoting Afro-Asian unity in the then decolonizing world. The cultural affinity that Nehru sought, however, made little headway as the African states became pawns in Cold War politics. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) also became engrossed in Cold War geo-politics as it competed with Taiwan for official recognition by African states. The political and subsequently economic inducements offered since then have led to the PRC winning over all but three African nations, Burkina Faso, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Swaziland. Mainland China is now the most powerful, admired, and, at the same time, one of the more despised foreign entities on the African continent.

You can read the entire article here.

ICI Secures $722,000 Grant from Ford Foundation


The India China Institute (ICI) was recently awarded a $722,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to support the development of a new, multi-year project called the China-India Scholar-Leaders Initiative. The initiative will support up to 18 promising young scholar-leaders who are using interdisciplinary research methods to grapple with complex questions related to prosperity and inequality in India and China, and want to expand their knowledge and research capacities in this area.

The Scholar-Leaders Initiative breaks new ground with scholars in India, China and the United States,” said ICI Senior Director Ashok Gurung. “We are developing a one-of-a-kind fellowship experience focused on supporting critical, interdisciplinary approaches to studying prosperity and inequality in the world today involving both young and established scholars worldwide.

This project builds on several successful project of the India China Institute, including the India China Fellows program, the India China Knowledge and Capacity Building Initiative, and the Emerging Scholars Initiative. It also seeks to foster the emerging field of India China Studies by supporting a new generation of Scholar-Leaders who are committed to producing critical new research, teaching and course development. The initiative will build strategic partnerships among select universities and research institutes in India and China, such as Peking University and Jawaharlal Nehru University that are well positioned to sustain and advance India China studies. These efforts will be linked through the creation of new courses built around a common research and teaching agenda of Prosperity and Inequality in India and China. ICI will partner with The New School’s Global Studies program to host some of these courses, and a group of former ICI Fellows from India and China will be important partners in helping ICI to develop this new curriculum.

The initiative focuses on supporting scholars from underrepresented backgrounds (e.g., first-generation college graduates, women, ethnic minorities) and aims to ensure they have equal access and opportunities to participate in global academic networks. By focusing on the theme of prosperity and inequality in India and China, ICI aims to further advance its commitment to research, teaching, and policy engagement that advances a focus on social justice and sustainable development. ICI is well positioned to focus on the development of young scholars through the issue of prosperity and inequality. By building on this work, ICI aims to strengthen these new scholarly networks and support interdisciplinary research that can promote better critical scholarship on inequality and prosperity.

To learn more about this new initiative visit the China-India Scholar-Leaders Initiative.


Tansen Sen on ‘China’s Coming Storm’

We are excited to share the latest “China Man” column by ICI friend and scholar Tansen Sen from the Times of India. In this latest piece, “China’s coming storm: But it will survive the current crisis as it has done many times before,” Professor Sen delves into the current political situation in China, and offers some of his reflections on the future. Here is a brief excerpt from his piece:

Predictions of an impending collapse of Communist China are a common pastime among a handful of foreign scholars and commentators. These soothsayers have made their dire predictions almost every decade since the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949. All have been proven wrong despite several disasters and political turmoil.

The Chinese leadership’s aptitude to institute prudent changes after each adversity seems to be a key reason for its endurance. Instead of a collapse, these changes have transformed China into an economic and geopolitical powerhouse.

Will President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang also respond to the current turbulence with prudent adjustments and prolong the rise of China?

You can read the entire piece online at the Times of India here.

Mapping the River Deltas ~ New China Exhibition by Victoria Marshall




Mapping the River Deltas

Sanshang Workshop on Art and Architecture

Hangzhou, China




“Everything flows on and on like this river, without pause, day and night.” Confucius said – by the river. Asian sages commented on the world in the metaphor of rivers. But a river, unrest as it is, does not fit into a theme of visual art easily for it is about “changing reality.” Early human civilizations were nurtured in the rich sediment of river deltas – layer by layer without a definite map. While art making is concerned with the intriguing materiality that a media conveys,scientific probes are prone to clear principles. Metaphysics are different again, because philosophic discussion tends to leave nothing concrete behind.

Following the 2014 exhibition of Professor Victoria Marshall at CIMA of Kolkata, India, we again make several otherwise disconnected fields inter-reference each other such as:geography, hydrology, landscape architecture, cartography, and ecology. There presentation of rivers and lands in old civilizations is only one view from which we could learn from this research of two very large urban river deltas today: the Yangtze and the Ganges.

This exhibition is designed as a hybrid type and in series. In Hangzhou, the show takes on many different resources: art documents, ready-made works, research materials as well as student works created from an onsite workshop.

展览时间 / Time – 03/28/2015—04/13/2015

开幕时间 / Opening Hour – 02:00pm 03/28/2015

工作坊 / Workshop- 02:00pm 03/27/2015

展览地点 / Place – 中国·杭州·三尚当代艺术馆

Sanshang Contemporary Art Museum


美国纽约帕森斯设计学院 维多利亚·马歇尔


浙江大学建筑学院 戚山山


中国人民大学艺术学院 唐克扬

Victoria Marshall is a New School faculty member at Parsons and a former ICI Fellows. More info here:

These are a few photos from the exhibit that just opened in China.

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Urbanization and Globalization: The Consumption Reality of China and the Adidas Group

This summer I will stay in Shanghai for about a month to conduct my research. During my stay in Shanghai, I would like to deepen my research on the dynamics of the Asian and Chinese market. Thanks to globalization and the Open Door Policy the Chinese population has been able to reach out to different realities. Consequentially, Chinese workers have been able to observe and take inspiration from the working habitat in other countries and ask for a better working condition for themselves. This increased the cost of labor in China and the buying power of the workers in the chain of production. Therefore, brands like The Adidas Group have started to outsource their chain of production elsewhere and to consider Chinese people as consumers rather than just a part of the chain of production. My research would focus on the sporting goods industry and to producers like the Adidas Group. This interest depends upon two main factors. Firstly, I have a personal interest in the sporting goods industry as my future career path. Secondly, I think that it is interesting to study the dynamics of the sporting goods industry especially in a country like China where women and other groups of society are starting to gain more importance as people and as consumers. An example of this is The Adidas Group’s recent advertising campaigns in China. The brand has launched advertising campaigns targeted to Chinese women that are extremely different from those targeted to women who live in Western world.

I plan on conducting an interview-based research and I have been reaching out to manufacturers as well as a reputable newspaper. I also plan on interviewing people that work in the stores and in the factories and customers of the stores themselves. I believe that this will give me the opportunity of understanding how this phenomenon is viewed by the different parts of the industry. I will also back up my research with readings I have been doing and will continue to do in preparation for the trip.

I will be going to China with the Lang Study Abroad Program. I believe that this will help me through my process because it will allow me to keep on studying Chinese and gain an understanding of Urban Development (both courses offered by the program) while I am there. I am studying Chinese right now and I have been doing so since last semester, but I think that studying Chinese while in Shanghai will make me more confident in speaking with people during the interviews as well as during quick talks in the stores. I have been to several summer camps and I am an international student at The New School. Therefore, I built up an ability to adapt to changing situations which will help me get accustomed to Shanghai and the dynamics of the research project very quickly.

Aside from the research project, I am excited to go to China because I have a genuine passion for exploring new cultures and new things. This is especially true in the case of China, because its culture is so different that what I am used to. Additionally, last year I picked up the study of Chinese, a language that I started to study briefly while in High School, and I also grew an interest for worldwide news and narratives that touched on the recent economic and cultural development of China. Because these topics are of great interest to me, I am excited to experience them for myself.

As far as documenting my research goes, I already have a blog, “The Nextplorer”( and I plan on documenting some of my findings here. Documenting my experiences is a cornerstone of my blog already. Indeed,  “The Nextplorer” is a blog about random findings and experiences that I collect all over the world. For the rest of the information, I plan on organizing it on my personal notebook and on computer software like Google Drive. I find Google Drive to be an excellent tool for organizing notes and other material. You guys should use it too!

State-Permeated Capitalism in China and India – Talk w/ Tobias ten Brink

Politics Talk: Tobias ten Brink

Tuesday, April 15 @ 6:00 pm

Wolff Conference Room
6 East 16th Street, Room 1103, New York

Tobias_ten_BrinkThe Politics Department at The New School for Social Research presents Tobias ten Brink, Heuss Lecturer Department of Politics, NSSR  and Senior Researcher Frankfurt University, who will deliver a talk entitled: “State-Permeated Capitalism in China and India: A Global Political Economy Perspective.”

Tobias ten Brink just earned his “Habilitation” on “Capitalist Development in China” from the Goethe-University Frankfurt. In 2012/13 he was a Visiting Scholar at the MIT, Cambridge (Department of Political Science), and at Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China. Since 2012 he has been a senior researcher at the DFG-project “A ‘BICS’-Variety of Capitalism? The Emergence of State-Permeated Market Economies in Large Emerging Countries.”

He belongs to a new generation of researchers who systematically use insights from the comparative and international study of capitalisms for the analysis of China and other large emerging economies. He also conducts research on questions of the transformation of the state and the state system.

His articles have appeared in Critical Asian Studies, dms – der moderne staat, Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, China: An International Journal, Leviathan and Critique Internationale. His book Geopolitik, which he wrote at the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research, has been awarded by the German Publishers & Booksellers Association in the category “Humanities international” in 2010.  Recent Books include Global Political Economy and the Modern State System, 2014, Leiden/Boston: Brill. Chinas Kapitalismus. Entstehung, Verlauf, Perspektiven [China’s Capitalism: Emergence, Trajectory, Paradoxes], 2013, Frankfurt/New York: Campus.

Research in China and Cambodia

For my research on labor identity of female garment workers I will be heading to Hong Kong, Southern China and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I’ve chosen these locations because of their strong ties to the global garment manufacturing industry. For decades Hong Kong tailors have been revered for their meticulous attention to detail and fine craftsmanship. After the Handover in 1997, China harnessed these skills and the economic value of Hong Kong to rapidly transform Shenzhen, a city spitting distance from Hong Kong. With Shenzhen’s status as a Special Economic Zone it was able to thrive in the global market, attracting foreign investment and quickly transforming into the capitalist labor market we know today. China’s economy has matured drastically since Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward. Labor costs are rising and competition is high. Because of an increase in labor laws, a growing number of companies are shifting their production to South East Asia. Cambodia is one of these countries where manufacturing and garment production has found a new home. In recent months Cambodia’s garment workers have pushed back against their employers demanding accountability, fighting for safer work environments and higher salaries.

Through my research in China and Cambodia I aim to capture a key narrative of the globalizing garment industry. I am interested in the interplay of modernity and consumption, particularly in relation to the identity of the female worker. In addition, I would like to investigate the possibility of intergenerational growth in the garment industry from industry laborers to fashion designers. This line of inquiry has the potential to show the evolution of Chinese society from peasant to migrant to the creation of a creative class, and the difference between industrializing to industrialized.

In preparation for the trip I am completing a survey of scholarly readings including writing by Jonathan Bach on Shenzhen’s urban growth and status as a Special Economic Zone, Aihwa Ong on factory women and capitalism, Simon Springer on neoliberalism in Cambodia’s authoritarian state, and Tamara Jacka on female migrant labor in China. Compiling readings across a variety of disciplines will serve me best during the interview phase of my research so that I might have an easier time identifying the powers at play.

I am really looking forward to the travel phase of this project. Being at home in other cultures, the feeling of embarking on a journey through personally uncharted waters excites me. I first experienced Hong Kong as a toddler. Having spent quite a bit of time as a young child in such a busy city had a big affect on my worldview. Growing up between the US and Hong Kong, I traveled to many countries in Southeast Asia but it wasn’t until 2013 that I first traveled to Cambodia.

Last January I traveled to Phnom Penh with the Urban Design program at Parsons. Our group of five students partnered with three students from the INDA program at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand and three students from Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh to learn about the changing urban fabric of the city. We spent four days under the guidance of Sa Sa Bassac artists zooming around the capital on tuktuks in the blistering heat, eating pieces of iced sugarcane and absorbing as much knowledge about urban development and Khmer culture as possible.

This trip fueled our final studio projects for the following spring semester and the relationships we initiated continued as Season of Cambodia, an exposition of traditional and contemporary Khmer art and culture, started in New York City in March. The next three months were an ecstatic blur of Khmer music, dance and theater performances, art gallery shows and delicious meals with new friends.

Outside of my research, I’m looking forward to exploring each city’s many markets. Market culture fascinates me. I love the hustle-and-bustle and eclectic mixture of stalls. It is a highly organized system that appears to be one big swirling mess. I’m hoping to come up with a wide selection of video and audio clips to document not only my process and the stories I gather but the also the rich cultures of China and Cambodia. To document my research, I will be running my own blog and using it as a tool to organize my video, audio and photography. The blog will also serve as record of my scholarly readings and reflections.



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