CFP: Field Research Method Lab – Addressing Field Research Constraints in China

(Please kindly note that a new LSE blog is launched based on the outcomes of the workshop: Field Research Method Lab at

Field Research Method Lab:
Addressing Field Research Constraints in China 

Hosted by the Department of Geography and Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science

Funded by the LSE Teaching and Learning Centre 

Dates: 6-7 June 2013

Venues: 6 June in Graham Wallace Room, Old Building and 7 June in Room OLD.3.21 (For maps and directions, please visit

It is with pleasure to announce CFP for a workshop on ‘Addressing Field Research Constraints in China’, to be held at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The field research method workshop aims at bringing together both established and early career researchers working on China and sharing their hands-on experiences of addressing various constraints that they have encountered in the course of their fieldwork. It will be an opportunity to hold scholarly debates on what tends to remain in individual researcher’s private domain or between lines without getting a chance to be disseminated. How the field research constraints are addressed however often determines the quality of research outcomes.

Presenters are encouraged to reflect upon their past/present field research projects, and draw some lessons, both practical and academic, which can be shared with the audience. Below is a list of potential topics but you are very much welcome to suggest any that is related to conducting field research in China:

(1)    Practicalities associated with field research (e.g. issues of field access, collaboration with local partners, language barriers including dependence on translators);

(2)    Constraints on data collection (sampling, access to government sources, credibility and contamination of field data, etc.);

(3)    Relationship between the researcher and the researched (researcher’s positionality, power relations, insider-outsider dichotomy, boundary crossing, etc.);

(4)    Constraints on international collaboration;

(5)    Cultural encounters;

(6)    Government censorship and data access;

(7)    Research ethics

Each presenter is to contribute a short paper (about 2,000 words). Contributed papers are initially to be published on LSE Blogs. A collective publication in the format of an edited volume may also to be explored on the basis of these contributions. The workshop by nature is going to be very much interdisciplinary, with confirmed contributors coming from Anthropology, Gender Institute, Social Policy and Geography and Environment.

Participants wishing to present their thoughts are invited to submit a 150-word (max.) abstract and a short biography to Dr Hyun Shin ( by 4th April 2013. 

If you are interested in attending only, please also e-mail Dr Hyun Shin to reserve a place. No registration fees required but places are limited.

Morning dance in an inner-city square, Xining, China

Xining is the provincial capital of Qinghai province in western China. Located at an high altitude (about 2,200 metres above sea level), the city is one of the most populous cities in the western region, having about 2.2 million residents by 2010. I had a chance to stay there for about one week as part of my field research in September 2008.

P1060270Among the many aspects of the city that caught my eyes during my stay, it was very interesting to see people of all ages and gender doing what appears to be a routine morning dancing exercise. Rotating a series of gestures and going around slowly in a circle, they all seemed to be quite well accustomed to the beats and melody, while not a single persons seemed to be hesistant about their moves.

I understand Chinese people are often seen early in the morning or (if in summer) late in the evening, indulging themselves in various group exercises such as Tai Chi and quite often, classic waltz, and I have seen many with my own eyes, but not to this scale. The entire plaza was filled with a number of small circles, repeating the same dance moves, and this was at around 8.30 am in the morning. It was actually quite enjoyable watching them, and made me feel like dancing (though didn’t have the nerve to join in…).

The plaza was one of the results of the city’s urban redevelopment projects in order to change the look of the city and attract more tourists, and apparently, the local citizens were ready to ‘occupy’ the space and spell out their own way of appropriating urban space.

Location: Xining, Qinghai Province, China (

Date: 20 September 2008

Urbanised Village and its Struggle to Survive



Urbanised villages in China refer to former rural villages that have been engulfed by urban expansion. Having lost farmlands, villagers invest heavily in dwellings to gain rental income from migrant tenants. This phenomenon is particularly pronounced in China’s Pearl River Delta region. These villages struggle to resist impending threats of demolition, though they give in eventually one after another, as is the case seen in this picture.

(originally submitted to LSE Photo Prize 2012 competition and shortlisted)

Location: Xian Village, Guangzhou, China

Date: December 2011

Absorbed in her Study, Xining, China


While families in China struggle to provide education for their children, girls are more likely to fall behind boys in terms of receiving fair opportunities. While roadworks were going on in the entire section of this busy street located in the central district of Qinghai’s provincial capital Xining, this girl show how much she was determined and willing to commit to her study.

(originally submitted to LSE Photo Prize 2012)

Location: Xining, China
Date: September 2008

Child and Bamboo Stick



In this neighbourhood located in central Guangzhou, China, tensions are heightened due to impending demolition and residents’ displacement. For most local residents, continuing their lives after displacement becomes a real struggle, but for now, the child’s major concern is to get the paper-roll back on the ground.

(originally submitted to LSE Photo Prize 2012)

Location: Liwan District, Guangzhou, China

Date: September 2009

Beijing in November 2002

오래전 ?었? 사진 정리하다 올린다. 베?징 4환 순환?로, Xiaoying 근처. 2002년 11월 겨울 초입

The picture below was taken near the northern section of the 4th ring road. Somewhere around Xiaoying in Beijing, China. Taken in November 2002.

Beijing, China, 2002

Beijing, China, 2002

2002년 겨울 초 베?징? 머물렀었다. 그 당시?? 빠른 ??로 변해 가는 중국 베?징… 그 변화?? 마치 88년 올림픽? 앞둔 서울? 연?케 했다… 아니 그 보다 ? 압축??다… 늘어가는 ?가용 보유율 따? 마차? ?? 사?져 간다. 그래? 처? 볼 때는 마냥 신기 @.@

당시, 마차? 사용? 줄면 ? ?? (당나귀?가…?) 지친 삶? 좀 편해질까 ?문스러웠다. 결론?, ‘아니다. 마차 사용 안하면 ?? ?? 마?한다… 중국 ?? 예외는 아니다’ 지금? ? ??? 유효하다.

51 days before the Guangzhou Asian Games



Guangzhou is busy with the preparation for the Guangzhou Asian Games that will take place in November. Some people in Guangzhou say the timing is not good, as the opening of the Games is only a few days after the completion of the Shanghai Expo. In any case, lots of construction works and beautification projects are taking place all over Guangzhou, and the government of Guangzhou wants to finish the originally planned refurbishment and beautification projects in time for the opening of the Games.

The photos above show some of the scenes around the Guangzhou East Station where fast trains to Hong Kong depart from. Everywhere you go in Guangzhou nowadays, it is fairly easy to find these Games-related slogans and electronic count-down billboards.  The whole station area was in a mess yesterday when I went there to take my train to Hong Kong. Three weeks earlier when I first arrived in Guangzhou, it was even messier. I suppose the remaining 51 days would see more intense mobilisation of resources by the government to complete the beautification and major construction projects considered crucial for the city to make it presentable to Games visitors.

When a guest visits one’s house, everyone would usually try to clean his/her house to make it presentable and comfortable for the guest. When a city engages with beautification and refurbishment, it becomes a whole different story, affecting far too many residents who may find quite a few projects absolutely unnecessary. The decision to decide the extent of the clean-up, beautification and refurbishment often rests with high-ranking officials, reflecting their own notion of what a city should look like.

Shanghai Bund and Pudong in 2010: Shanghai’s Past and Future

The rise of Shanghai has been subject to academic scrutiny during last few decades. The study of Shanghai and other major coastal cities provides an window to understand China’s past, present and future, but sometimes, misdirects observers to believe that Shanghai (and a few other major coastal cities such as Guangzhou) represents China’s urbanism. As one of leading cities, what Shanghai does sets an example for other inland cities that admire Shanghai’s re-emergence as a world city. In this regard, understanding Shanghai’s urbanism is an interesting and necessary endeavour. On the other hand, it is necessary to understand China’s inland cities experience a differing degree of exposure and possession of economic, political and geographical assets (both existing and expected) that would influence the particular trajectory of their growth. Shanghai’s rise may not be something that can be easily replicated by other inland cities.

Shanghai Liujiazui (top) and Bund (bottom) (c) Hyun Shin 2010

Shanghai Liujiazui (top) and Bund (bottom) (c) Hyun Shin 2010

The view of Shanghai Pudong (top picture, left) from the Bund would probably represent the present and future of Shanghai. The dense cluster of modern high-rise office buildings with some additional commercial luxury condominiums may represent the kind of wealth and power that Shanghai as well as China as a whole would like to achieve on the globe. On the other hand, the view of the Bund from Pudong’s riverside promenade represents Shanghai’s past and present. The Bund is already a densely built area, but as seen in this picture (bottom picture, left), the hinterland of the Bund experiences denser, commercial development. The historic buildings along the Bund that date back to the early 20th century would probably remain conserved, possible to be dwarfed by taller buildings behind them. Continue reading