Yanjun Cai

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Conviviality and Informality: Everyday Urban Multiculture in Pantang, Guangzhou

This research explores how Pantang, a renovated historic and aging urban community in Guangzhou of China, has manifested and integrated the everyday urban multiculture with conviviality and informality.

Pantang is located in Guangzhou's old town area, with a history of more than a thousand years for recreation and leisure. As a product of industrialization, urbanization, and urban renovation, Pantang has generated multicultural private-public spaces for local residents, small business owners, and tourists, including wholesale markets, dim sum joints, public parks, handshake residential buildings, wet markets, and cultural and creative stores. By such critical hubs, Pantang showcases itself as a neighborhood filled with the contrasts between traditional and modern, natural and built, authentic and inauthentic, inclusive and exclusive, local and global. Through participatory observation and in-depth interviews, this study examines how conviviality and informality, as the key concepts, spatially and socioeconomically connect diverse forms and qualities of sociality with the contemporary urban transformation in Pantang. In particular, diverse populations demonstrate how they have formed, practiced, and mingled their different but sometimes shared ordinary lived experiences through engaging with the multicultural landscapes. In this way, the neighborhood of Pantang offers new modes of social mobilities, identity building, and community attachment among various actors, which further shape the social, cultural, and spatial notion of Pantang. This place-based research in the Chinese context adds insights to the contemporary urban diversity, in the face of Asia's rapid urban transformation.

Dr. Yanjun Cai is an Associate Research Fellow in the School of International Relations at the Sun Yat-sen University, China. Prior to that, Yanjun finished her postdoctoral fellowship for the Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia Partnership at the University of Toronto, Canada. In 2017, Yanjun completed her Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, as an East-West Center Graduate Degree Fellow. Her research interests lie in community resilience, environmental planning and policy, digital governance, and public engagement in the Asia-Pacific region. In particular, Yanjun has focused on exploring how to make disadvantaged communities more just, sustainable, and resilient in the face of urbanization, globalization, and climate change. Yanjun’s current research is on the community transformation in the old town area of Guangzhou, where she was born and raised. Yanjun has worked with a number of universities, international organizations, and NGOs in the U.S., Myanmar, Philippines, China, and Vietnam, including the Asian Development Bank, University of the Philippines, University at Albany.


Sun Yat-sen University