From Beverly Hills to Shangri-La and Beyond: A Relational Conjunctural Analysis of Place Names and Gentrification in Southwest China

Author Information

Michela Bonato,
University of Padova, Italy

DOI: 10.47298/cala2022.7-3
The GLOCAL Proceedings:  The GLOCAL Conference in Asia 2022


How are Chongqing’s upscale residential neighbourhoods (de)politicized? To answer this question, this research adopts a conjunctural perspective based on ‘problem space,’ i.e., where the conjuncture manifests its problematics, ambiguities, and contestations, questioning human-environmental relational values and urban aggrandizement.

The paper investigates the process of Chongqing land renewal in the last two decades, and its entanglement with local and national politics, shedding light on gentrification as a biopolitical technology perform, weaving new meaning, legitimation, and authoritative spaces, for Chinese economic, administrative, and ideological shifts. Critical discourse analysis is applied to frame the upscale real estate naming process, as it evokes different phases of Chongqing’s economic, cultural, and environmental adjustment. In doing so, the paper highlights how local state-entrepreneurial power geometries make space, and influence landscaping and ‘worlding,’ according to national geopolitical interests and narratives.

Keywords: Governmentality, place naming, conjunctural analysis, gentrification, relational values, Chongqing, China


Anguelovski, I., Connolly, J. J. T. Garcia-Lamarca, M. Cole, H. and Pearsall, H. (2019). New Scholarly Pathways on Green Gentrification: What Does the Urban ‘Green Turn’ Mean and Where is it Going? Progress in Human Geography 43(6): 1064–1086. doi:10.1177/0309132518803799
Basik, S. (2023). Exploring Informal Vexillgeographies: Flags, Urban Place Names, and Local Identities in Minsk, Belarus. Cities, 134: 104165.
Bonato, M. (2022). The Problem Space of Nature in Chongqing: A Conjunctural Analysis of Environmental Crisis Discourses and Local Housing Practices. Lingue Culture Mediazioni / Languages Cultures Mediation, 9(1): 165–188.
Brenner, N. (2009). Restructuring, Rescaling, and the Urban Question. Critical Planning, 10.
Cheng, H. and Gonzalez-Vicente, R. (2023). For Conjunctural Geography: From Method to Counter-Hegemonic Practice. Dialogues in Human Geography 0(0).
[CJGJ] Chongqing Jianzhu Guanli Ju (Office of Chongqing Architecture), ed. (1997). Chongqing Jianzhu Zhi (Annals of Chongqing Architecture). Chongqing: Chongqing Daxue Chubanshe.
Foucault, M. (1991). Governmentality. In G. Burchell, C. Gordon, and P. Miller (eds.) The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality with Two Lectures and Interview with Michel Foucault (pp. 87–104). Toronto: Harvester Wheatsheaf.
Geertz, C. (2000). The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books.
Grossberg, L. (2019). Cultural Studies in Search of a Method, or Looking for Conjunctural Analysis. New Formations: A Journal of Culture/Theory/Politics, 96-97: 38–68. doi:10.3898/NEWF:96/97.02.2019.
Hall, S, ed. (1997). Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Sage.
Harvey, D. (1989). The Urban Experience. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Harvey, D. (2003). The New Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hong, L. J. (1999). A Tale of Two Cities. A Comparative Study of the Political and Economic Development of Chengdu and Chongqing. In J. H. Chung (ed.), Cities in China (pp. 183–214). London and New York: Routledge.
Jessop, B. (2000). The Crisis of the National Spatio-Temporal Fix and the Tendential Ecological Dominance of Globalizing Capitalism. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 24(2): 323–360. doi:10.1111/1468-2427.00251.
Kim, S. B. (2010). The Cultural Politics of Place Names in [South] Korea: Contestation of Place Names’ Territories and Construction of Territorial Identity. The Review of Korean Studies, 13(2): 161–186.
Lim, K. F. (2014). Spatial Egalitarianism as a Social ‘Counter-movement’: On Socio-Economic Reforms in Chongqing. Economy and Society, 43(3): 455–493.
Liu, W. (2012). Chongqing Finishes Building Public-Rent Housing of 6.5954 mln sq.m.
The China Times. Last modified December 18 (accessed June 8, 2018).
Lu, W. W., Jiang, W. Y, Qiao, D. et al. (2023). Embracing Green Spaces: Exploring Spatiotemporal Changes in Urban Green Space Accessibility and its Equity in Guangzhou, China for
Sustainable Urban Greening. Environmental and Sustainability Indicators, 19: 100290.
Méndez Cota, G.. (2019). Policing the Environmental Conjuncture: Structural Violence in Mexico and the National Assembly of the Environmentally Affected. New Formations, 96: 69–88. doi:10.3898/neWF:96/97.03.2019.
Paasi, A. (2011). Region, Identity, and Power. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 14: 9–16.
Rose-Redwood, R., Vuolteenaho, J. Young, C. and Light, D. (2019). Naming Rights, Place Branding, and the Tumultuous Cultural Landscapes of Neoliberal Urbanism. Urban Geography, 1–15. doi:10.1080/02723638.2019.1621125.
Said, E. (1978). Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books.
Saxena, A., Chatti, K., Overstreet, D. and Dove, M. R. (2018). From Moral Ecology to Diverse Ontologies: Relational Values in Human Ecological Research, Past and Present. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 35: 54–60.
Shin, H. B. (2016). Economic Transition and Speculative Urbanisation in China: Gentrification versus Dispossession. Urban Studies, 53(3): 471–89. doi:10.1177/0042098015597111.
Spencer, J. E. (1941). Chinese Place Names and the Appreciation of Geographic Realities. Geographical Review, 31(1): 79–94.
Stenseke, M. (2018). Connecting ‘Relational Values’ and Relational Landscape Approaches. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 35: 82–88.
Strang, V. (1997). Uncommon Grounds: Cultural Landscapes and Environmental Values. Oxford: Berg.
Waley, P. (2016). Speaking Gentrification in the Languages of the Global East. Urban Studies, 53(3): 615–25.
Xue, Bing, Han, Bin, Li, Hongqing et al. (2023). Understanding Ecological Civilization in China: From Political Context to Science. Ambio.

Full CALA 2022 Proceedings book