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Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects:
This article examines poverty and welfare provision in early twentieth-century Beijing as dialogue and transaction between the city government and the urban poor. Earlier studies of the Chinese urban have tended to emphasize the material aspects of urban development, and the efforts of planners and city governments to modernize China’s cities, rather than the human experience of the city. This article draws on the extensive archives of the Beijing Municipal Government Social Affairs Bureau to extend our understanding of the experience of poverty and the agency of the poor. The archive confirms that Beijing’s growing and increasingly formalized welfare institutions were designed to discipline the poor as they alleviated poverty. However, the correspondence between applicants for welfare and the Social Affairs Bureau also reveals that the poor often approached these institutions instrumentally and assertively. Recourse to the welfare institute became a livelihood tactic, a claim on the authorities in pursuit of which certain sub-groups within the poor mobilized intangible assets, from social networks to understanding of the intended terms of the system, to sway the terms of their engagement with the authorities in their own favour.
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