Understanding Scalar Politics Through the Framework of Relational Archipelagos: The Case of Shenzhen Fair, China


In this article I aim to tackle two binary readings of scale: the networked/hierarchical and the political/economic. By revisiting and reframing the concept of the archipelago, I develop a framework of relational hierarchical networks that foregrounds the mutual constitution of networks and hierarchies through a processual examination of scale production, taking the Shenzhen Fair as a case study. The fair is a valuable site for interrogating the issue of scale politics—that is, how to catapult a city into China’s trading circuit, while simultaneously allowing a new epistemological construction of nationhood. I present two arguments in this study: first, territorial logic and capitalist logic are entangled in constructing networks for flows of discursive and material things, and these networks form new hierarchies of place. Second, various political and economic interests might gravitate towards different geographies through the same process of networking. I also assess how the newly produced state space is a relational archipelago that unifies formerly disparate places and sectors and enables the mobility of discursive and material things, and how the redistribution of these discourses and materials reconfigures the state space.