The Politics of Water: Power and Place in a Reservoir Migrant Community in South China

  • Donghong Ou

Student thesis: Phd


This dissertation explores how people maintain, change, make, and remake their relations with certain places in a long process of displacement. Based on the life experiences of the reservoir relocatees who live in or pass through Xingang, the major pier of Xinfengjiang Reservoir in south China, it offers a historical and ethnographic description of how the displaced people make place in Xingang, which has been closely linked to the ever-changing politics of water in recent decades: from dam construction to water transportation, to eco-tourism, and to water supply schemes.This dissertation suggests that questions on memory and movement are central in understanding place-making in Xingang. By portraying the various strategies the reservoir relocatees play with memory and movement, in their effort to make place under constraints and exclusions in a continuous process of displacement, I argue that by keeping distance of both the past (submerged memory) and fixed relations (fluid community), they gain flexibility and power to respond to the ever-changing state ideology.In addition, this dissertation examines how social relations and identities at various intersecting levels are influenced by displacement with a particular angle of the mobility of people under the reality of rural-urban division in post-reform China, and calls for a new direction in Chinese studies to focus on the places in between: those that are not urban nor rural, but awkwardly both.
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSarah Green (Supervisor) & William Schroeder Iii (Supervisor)


  • Forced Migration
  • Social Memory
  • China
  • Reservoir Migrant

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