Driving the City: Taxi Drivers and the Tactics of Everyday Life in Beijing

Gladys Pak Lei Chong


This article examines the ways in which taxi driving and China’s quest for global ascendency are interlinked and enmeshed. Inspired by de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life and his conceptual formulation of “strategy” and “tactic”, this article explores how taxi drivers, through their everyday practice of driving, found ways and moments to tactically challenge and appropriate so-called “civility campaigns” and a rising China. By demonstrating the numerous instances of tactics taxi drivers used, I argue that their socio-economic marginality did not, in fact, reduce them to a “powerless” position. I bring in Foucault’s analytics of power and governmentality to add to de Certeau’s work by helping to explain the intertwined relationship between government and governed to shed light on the complexity implicated in the dynamics of power relations and resistance. I examine the period around the 2008 Beijing Olympics as it involved large-scale attempts to showcase China through (urban) transformation.

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