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How to make sense of Shanghai? The colonial city model versus the postmetropolis paradigm

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  1. The colonial city model: a useful way to make sense of Shanghai through its history
    1. The impact of the International Settlements on issues of domination and segregation
    2. The survival of colonial vestiges as symbols of the city
  2. The postmetropolis paradigm: adding up postmodern dynamics to better grasp Shanghai's urban development
    1. Undifferentiated urban spaces and lack of collective unity
    2. Building on culture: (re)inventing the past to brand the future?

Shanghai never ceased to exert a strong fascination, from the "Paris of the East" of the late nineteenth century to today's showcase of China's economic power. It has also become a global symbol of the "prowess of capitalism" and of cosmopolitanism, as a huge revenge on China's turbulent contemporary history. However it is a well-known fact, notably among many academics in urban studies, that such Asian "mega cities" in general are not easy to study. Indeed, for those who consider that size still matters, a term has been coined to designate cities with a population over ten million people : "mega cities". According to Scott, Shanghai can even be considered a "major global city-region" (Scott, 2008). With a total population exceeding 17,8 million inhabitants and 23,7 million taking into account the whole municipality, it is now the largest city proper in the world. Shanghai is also a peculiar city in the sense that it has never been a "classic (Chinese) city", due to its relatively late development in the 13th century and the fact that, in spite of its size, it has never been an imperial or a political capital. Hence our willingness to study Shanghai's urban development. However, which model should be used to make sense of this fascinating, but elusive city?

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