Setting of boundaries is always a political act

The key point of this post concerns a quote, which Luigi Tomba (2015, p. 29) employs, from Blakely and Snyder (1997, p. 1):

“In 1997, discussing the American obsession with gated communities, Edward Blakely and Mary Gail Snyder wrote: ‘The setting of boundaries is always a political act. Boundaries determine membership: someone must be inside and someone outside. Boundaries also delineate space to facilitate the activities and purposes of political, economic, and social life.’ As mentioned in the introduction, the political and social use of such boundary-making exercises is nothing new in China, as clustering of social groups has been central to the classification of society as well as the organization and administration of the territory, the rationalization of consumption, and the policing of individual lives. What is new, however, is that such state-sponsored social clustering continues deep into a period characterized by an explosion in private homeownership and by a reduction in the dependence of urban Chinese on the state-owned enterprise.”

[End of excerpt from Luigi Tomba (2015)]

China and elsewhere

I have previously discussed gated communities in China and America:

Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States (1997) – classic study regarding gated communities

It was as a result of reading the above-noted book that I came up with the title for this post, namely: “Inside gated communities, facts are nuisances.”

Role of other classes, aside from middle class, in China

Application of linguistic anthropology to study of new housing and residential spaces in China

The Government Next Door: Neighborhood Politics in Urban China (2015) addresses translation of hegemonic discourses

How does one contrast and compare gated communities?

How does one contrast and compare gated communities around the world?

What is the conceptual role of simulation in the creation of the conceptual infrastructure connected with gated communities? By simulation I refer to the imagined realities that are created by marketing.

How are gated communities similar? The answer is that they are marketed in the same ways. The marketing entails the simulation of an ideal community. By simulation, I refer to the imagery and wording that is at the heart of the marketing. Marketing is emotion-based; it may or may not have a close relationship to the facts or a wider perspective.

A wider perspective includes:

  • the view of things as seen from the city or cities in the vicinity of a gated community or set of gated communities;
  • the view of things from a nation-state perspective;
  • the perspective of neoliberalism (or neo-liberalism, to use a variation, which I think has some relevance, of the spelling);
  • a global perspective, when viewed in relation to extremely violent societies (of which, it has been argued, the British empire, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, the United States, and China are typical exemplars);
  • a global perspective, when viewed in relation, by way of example, to climate change.


Tomba (2015) notes there are limits to what neoliberalism can explain with regard to gated communities in China.

A related question concerns what neoliberalism can explain with regard to the role of civic society in North America.

A useful starting point is to ask: When we speak of neoliberalism, what are we speaking about? A good overview is provided by After ’08 (2015) and Masters of the Universe (2012); some people argue, however, that the term has limited utility:

Can the term neoliberalism be turned into a useful analytic tool?

Business model for journalism

My initial reading, regarding gated communities, has prompted me toward viewing writing based upon ethnographic fieldwork as a step ahead of traditional journalism. However, my recent reading has prompted me to see that there is value, as well, in the musings of journalists.

My tentative conclusion, based on recent reading related to both the challenges to traditional business models for journalism, and in relation to understanding the recent history of urban China, is that there is value in reading books by journalists.

With regard to journalistic accounts, a number of online commentaries  are of interest:

Former Globe and Mail editor John Stackhouse reveals right-wing proclivities and much more in Mass Disruption

A ‘New Yorker’ Writer’s Take On China’s ‘Age Of Ambition’

Review: ‘Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China’ by Evan Osnos

The China Syndrome


An April 28, 2016 Walrus article is entitled: “Neighbourhood Watch: How social networks lead to racial profiling. Welcome to Canada’s new virtual gated communities.”

Also of interest: One Child: The Story of China’s Most Radical Experiment (2016).

A June 2016 Atlantic article is entitled: The Destructive Legacy of Housing Segregation: Less visible than the rise of income inequality in America is its impact in shaping the country’s urban neighborhoods. Two books – by Matthew Desmond and Mitchell Duneier – could help change that.”

A June 2016 Atlantic article is entitled: “China’s Twilight Years: The country’s population is aging and shrinking. That means big consequences for its economy – and America’s global standing.”

A June 15, 2016 Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy article is entitled: “China issues demolition order on world’s largest religious town in Tibet.”

A June 24, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “Beijing has fallen: China’s capital sinking by 11cm a year, satellite study warns.”

A Nov. 12, 2016 Globe and Mail article by Doug Saunders, entitled “Whitewashed,” features an American interview subject  who lives in a gated community: “Although her neighbourhood, which is gated and predominantly white, does not see much crime, her family had armed up, accumulating more firearms to protect itself.”

A Best of 2016 Longreads article, which refers to the concept of “gated communities” in the context of warfare, is entitled: “Theorizing the Drone: What does the rise of the drone mean for justice, for the ethics of heroism, for psychology? Most important of all, who is dying and why?”

1 reply
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    A Nov 29, 2016 Pacific Standard article is entitled: “One Last Thing: Hostile Architecture: Yesterday’s public-safety measure has become today’s assault on the underclass.”


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