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Asian Migration and Global Cities

Anne Cong-Huyen, Jonathan Young Banfill, Katherine Herrera, Samantha Ching, Natalie Yip, Thania Lucero, Randy Mai, Candice Lau, Authors
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Recyling Village

Out the NE gate of Tsinghua there is a small railway underpass that opens up into a strange strip of ground that surrounds the railway and the above ground subway line. There used to be a village here, but it was torn down a few years before. Now there are just odd plots of farmland nestled in an otherwise relatively crowded part of the city. In the distance you can see looming skeletons of to be built apartment buildings, and for awhile there was a quickly constructed construction worker dormitory (thin metal, small rooms, bunk beds). It abutted a large field space where the village had been and where new housing would be. This was blocked by a large billboard, a kind of Potemkin village hiding, almost like that scene in Brazil. 

I would often take this route to walk. Wandering through the strange little farms and remaining village path, before it emptied out on the next main road near a motorcycle sales shop and a cheap hotel. If you turned right you would hit the road to Wudaokou. If you turned left you would follow the road north. Always on this road there were bikes and carts carrying different strange loads, which took me awhile to figure out what they were: big bundles of Styrofoam, or plastics, or other wastes, being carted up the road for disposal.

If you followed them you would find a strange sight, a whole area of junkyards and recycling centers, built around the Fifth Ring Road freeway. These people collect from the waste of the city and turn it into profit. The street is bustling with activity, and strange piles of collected waste, mixed in with migrant living accommodations—converted old houses, newly made cheap housing. Small food shops serving local specialties from rural areas: Henan style, Shanxi noodles, etc. At night it looks like the techno-primitive future of dystopian cyber punk. There are flashes of Blade Runner. Yet it is also of the moment and of the past, ingenious ways of making money from the detritus of the high classes here. 

For illustrations take a look at the work of photographer James Wasserman
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