Shenzhen: City of Suspended Possibility


This essay on Shenzhen, China, presents three vignettes addressing the question of home in a city of migrants. The first section explores the ubiquitous narratives of success forming the city’s foundational myth. The second follows this myth into the world of a Shenzhen filmmaker and his characters, as they navigate the tension between the idea of home and the urge to start anew, resulting in the suspended possibility of the title. The last section looks at young architects who hope to preserve the city’s heterotopic sites of migrants and original villagers through architectural innovations. The cases show how an economy of desire supplements the political economy of this export‐driven city. The city appears as an urban desiring machine that produces itself as an object of desire for the migrants of all classes who flock to its factories, ‘urban villages’, white‐collar jobs, luxury villas and underground economy. The essay is an encounter with the mythology of success and failure, the intertwining of home as an end and home as the beginning, and with the manipulation of space that allows residents to control their own subjectivity.