Urban Enclaving Futures


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Urban Enclaving Compares African and East-Asian Trajectories of Housing and Urbanization in Shanghai

In mid-September 2023, the innovative Urban Enclaving Futures project convened its third workshop entitled, “Urban Trajectories: Comparing Integration, Enclaving and Development in Africa and China” in Shanghai. While the UEF project focuses on processes related to housing, enclaving, and urbanization in the African cities of Accra, Maputo and Johannesburg, the intention of this workshop was to explore comparative experiences from a Chinese perspective. Furthermore, with China’s increasing global influence and expanding trade routes, the workshop also explored Sino-African relations – Africa in China, and China in Africa. Over four intense, rewarding, and eventful days, researchers from Europe, Africa and China convened for empirically founded discussions characterized by intellectual generosity and curiosity.

Group photo of participants
Workshop participants outside Nordic Centre, Fudan University. From the left: Ruy Llera Blanes, Fan Lizhu, Bjørn Enge Bertelsen, Veli-Matti Palomäki, Leif Ole Manger, Caroline Borgen, Helder Nhamaze, Austin Ablo, Sandra Manuel, Yunus Rafiq, Tang Min, Wen Lei, Ole Johannes Kaland and Li Qi.
Ole Johannes Kaland


The workshop was generously funded by grants from the Fudan-European Centre for China Studies (FECCS), jointly run by Fudan University and the University of Oslo, and the Nordic Centre at Fudan University who also hosted the proceedings—in addition to some supplementary funds from the UEF.


Reconfiguring Sino-African-Norwegian Ties post-Covid

In 2019, the Urban Enclaving Futures project received a grant from the University of Bergen’s Seed Money for Research and Education Cooperation with China (Såkornsmidler for forskning- og utdanningssamarbeid med Kina) to establish a comparative research component in one of the world’s most populous cities, Shanghai. The component consisted of two parts: First, Ole Johannes Kaland, affiliate researcher of the UEF project, was slated to embark on fieldwork there in the autumn of 2020. Second, a comparative workshop was to be convened there at the same time. Unfortunately, the covid-pandemic delayed these initiatives. 

With the regression of the pandemic and the reopening of China, it was finally possible to set these plans in motion, beginning with the workshop. This was important for several reasons: It was the first meeting for the UEF project outside Africa since before the pandemic, it entailed the resumption of the longstanding academic collaboration between the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Bergen and the Department of Sociology at Fudan University, and it entailed the start of an exciting comparative Chinese component of the UEF project. 


The day before the workshop, early arriving participants partook in a tour of Yiwu, an important city for whole-sale products that are traded globally. Here, the village of Xiazhu, which has specialized itself on e-commerce which is taking an increasingly larger piece of the market since buyers and producers can interact directly online.

Ole Johannes Kaland

Urban enclaves from comparative East-Asian perspectives 

The core themes of the workshop -- integration, enclaving and development -- were all coined to capture different aspects of urban trajectories that can and should be compared between different empirical settings. In this context, integration refers to how urban developments meld into and become part of the existing urban morphology, while enclaving refers to the unequal distribution of urban infrastructure. Both tendencies -- integration and enclaving -- are simultaneous parts of urban development processes that are identifiable across the globe. Having been an Africa-focused project thus far, it was therefore an apt choice to extend the discussion to China and Shanghai – a country and city that has had a booming development in the last decades. 

«The UEF project has had three important workshops in Maputo, Accra and Johannesburg over the years. Albeit impacted by the covid pandemic, fieldwork has also been undertaken in all these sites and at this juncture, when we have so much comparative knowledge of the way in which enclaving unfolds both at the level of the imaginary and in material form, it was truly rewarding to engage colleagues based at institutions in Mainland China and Taiwan. I am convinced all those participating have all learnt a great deal. I therefore have great expectations for deepening and multiplying our collaborations”, Bjørn Bertelsen comments.

newly developed residential area

A former industrial area, Dinghaiqiao has been going through several redevelopment projects in the last decade. Several urban villages accommodating workers have been demolished to give space to new middle and upper-class housing projects, malls, office buildings and businesses.

Ole Johannes Kaland

From the “Maputo meanderings”, “Accra ambulations” and “Johannesburg jostlings” to the “Shanghai steps”

Multimodality has been at the core of the way in which the Urban Enclaving Futures workshops have been convened. In particular, the practice of leaving the workshop venue and exploring local manifestations of the urban with local people started with the “Maputo meanderings” in 2019, was followed up by the “Accra ambulations” 2020 and the “Johannesburg Jostlings in 2022, and finally solidified into a tradition with the “Shanghai steps” this autumn. In Shanghai, this happened over three days, from a field trip to the global trade city of Yiwu, to explorations of various suburban and downtown neighborhoods and housing communities in Shanghai.

Dinghaiqiao new developments

One of the world’s most populous cities, Shanghai has been expanding outward rapidly since the 1980’s. However, also former industrial areas along the Huangu river where wharfs, docks and industries where formerly placed have been gentrified and turned into upscale residen*al areas. In the Xuhui riverside area, old cranes have been allowed to stay as a symbol of the areas past.

Ole Johannes Kaland


Tracing Sino-African relations in Yiwu

The day before the workshop formally started, UEF researchers Bjørn Enge Bertelsen, Ole Johannes Kaland and Ruy Llera Blanes travelled to Yiwu with Leif Ole Manger, who has followed traders of Sudanese and Hadrami backgrounds for years, with PhD candidate Wang Shuqiao from Fudan University as a local guide. The group learned about the rapidly growing industry of e-commerce in Xiazhu village, had lunch with Sudanese traders and explored the Yiwu International Trade City – kinds of products!  The world’s largest small commodities market spanning four million square meters, including 75,000 booths where 100.000 suppliers exhibit 400,000  

newly developed residential area

An example of a high rise residential building in Xuhui riverside area.

Ole Johannes Kaland

Shanghai: A world city with layers of historic and contemporary enclaves 

In Shanghai, the participants met for a two-day workshop taking place at the Nordic Centre of Fudan University. After the workshop on day two, the group explored the downtown area of Puxi, walking through the bustling area of Yu Garden into the nearby urban villages close to Shanghai Old Street that have been slated for redevelopment in recent years. The old neighborhoods and homes once lively, loud and brimming with people stood in sharp contrast to the luxurious and restrained style of nearby high-rise malls and hotels – after all, the area close to the Bund (Waitan) is prime real estate. 

The final day of the workshop was spent entirely outdoors. First, professor Min Tang of Tongji University showed the group around the Dinghaiqiao area, Shanghai’s former industrial area along the Huangpu river. Having followed the development of the area for 10 years, professor Tang gave an account of the history of the area, its redevelopment processes, and shared insights about the relations between real estate developers, the city government, old and new residents of the area. Later in the day, the group was given a tour of the former French Concession – one of several historic semi-colonial European enclaves in Shanghai. 

As a token of the success of discussing enclaving comparatively, a new Sino-Nordic-African network of urban research was founded. The network is now working towards publishing the discussions and insights emanating from the workshop as a special issue in a leading urban studies journal.

As for Kaland, he will embark for fieldwork on behalf of the UEF project in Shanghai in the spring of 2024. There he will be an affiliate of Nordic Centre and the School of Social Development and Public Policy at Fudan University. In Shanghai, Kaland will be studying the housing aspirations of young families of a range of different backgrounds. Kaland’s research focuses intergenerationally on what becoming or being unable to become a homeowner means – an important question for the UEF project, and one with much comparative potential given the rising property prices the world over. 

Oriental Pearl Tower

Perhaps the most important icon on Shanghai’s skyline that epitomizes its cosmopolitanism and modernity.

Ole Johannes Kaland