Urban Ecological Enclosures : Conservation Planning, Peri-urban Displacement, and Local State Formations in China


Across contemporary China, city governments are unevenly territorializing peri‐urban villagers’ land and housing by creating new urban ecological conservation sites. I analyze this emerging form of what I call ‘ecological territorialization’ through three interrelated spatial practices: comprehensive urban–rural planning, peri‐urban ‘ecological migration’, and the distribution of institutional responsibility for conservation site financing, construction and management. Detailing this triad of territorializing practices renews attention to the relationship between conservation classifications that justify state intervention, uneven displacements of people from rural land and housing, and site‐specific capitalizations that collectively consolidate urban government control over rural spaces. These practices emerge stochastically as state, private, and semi‐state institutions capitalize on conservation projects in the context of legally and constitutionally underdefined land use rights and ecological land designations. In the current post‐socialist moment of urban ‘greening’, these practices are key to producing frontiers of land‐based accumulation and extending local state control across the peri‐urban fringe. Urban ecological enclosures not only remake city‐level state power but also shape rural people’s relationships to land, labor and housing.