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Folding Beijing in Houchangcun Road, or, the topology of power density



Author: Yimin Zhao

Abstract: This paper engages with discussions on geographies of urban density by investigating the enduring power relations that underlie the (de-)forming of urban densities in Beijing. Articulating a topological framework with the infrastructural lives of socio-spatial reordering in Houchangcun Road, often being labelled “the most congested in the universe,” this paper presents how the authoritarian state manages to sustain its will to power/legitimacy and renders this will a kernel of the geography of power densities. This congestion-density, it turns out, is induced by the state’s folding together of various dimensions of the urban process and is experienced in an infrastructurally disturbing way. The topological consistency of power as such is with broader theoretical implications, since it reminds us of the significance of political mechanisms underlying a world of intensive heterogeneities on the one hand and the limit of verticality as a principal metaphor in talking about urban density on the other.