Property-driven Urban Change in Post-Socialist Shanghai: Reading the Television Series Woju

Samuel Y. Liang


In late 2009, the television series Woju (蜗居) received extremely high audience ratings in major Chinese cities. Its visual narratives engage the public and comment on social developments by presenting detailed pictures of urban change in Shanghai and the everyday lives of a range of urban characters who are involved in and affected by the urban-restructuring process and represent three distinct social groups: “white-collar” immigrants, low-income local residents, and powerful officials. By analysing the visual narratives of these characters, this article highlights the loss of the city’s historical identity and shows how the reorganization of urban space translates into a reallocation of resources, power and prestige among the social groups. The article also shows that Woju repre-sents a new development in literary and television production in the age of the Internet and globalization; its imaginative construct of the city was based on transnational and virtual rather than local and neighbourhood experience. This also testifies to the loss of the city’s established identity in cultural production.

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