Ontological security and residential experiences in China: The 'old' and the 'new' in Shanghai's Luwan district

Alexander Gray Cockain

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the recent emergence of scholarship on various aspects of contemporary urban Chinese residential life, these accounts typically perpetuate a narrative that situates the anonymous and emotionally distant life in new, often high-rise, apartments in contrast to the hugely more intimate relationships in older, predominantly low-rise living spaces. This article, whilst acknowledging the meaningfulness of such a distinction, first seeks to add ethnographic richness to this division, showing how, at least in the case of a small area within Shanghai's Luwan district, an old/new neighbourhood division is incapable of expressing the more complex, often ambivalent, ways in which people experience residential life, before proceeding to show how residents' experiences often cross-cut what is, in large part, a discursive division rather than a physical demarcation of separate spaces. The article also explores the ways in which residents seek to cope with, as well as find security and comfort within, residential spaces that are changing. Permeating this article are various meanings associated with the term 'ontological security' that, broadly speaking, refers to the order and regularity, as well as sense of well-being, that people feel in their lives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-358
Number of pages28
JournalChina Information
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2012


  • Ambivalence
  • complementary opposition
  • Gemeinschaft
  • Gesellschaft
  • natural area
  • ontological security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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