Unburied Bodies In China And The Challenges Of Urban Redevelopment

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Professor Qin Shao focused on an emerging phenomenon in urban China in her lecture on unburied bodies, some decades old, kept in overcrowded morgues and mortuaries across Chinese cities. The lecture was part of the “Cultural and Social Worlds of Global Cities” series which aims to bring important scholars to campus who study global cities from humanistic and social scientific perspectives. 
Professor Shao discussed some of the challenges regarding urban redevelopment and the struggle in creating human-centered cities, focusing on the ways that contestations over the unclaimed bodies of deceased urban residents reveal ongoing political struggles between the Chinese state and many families displaced by urban redevelopment projects . 
According to Professor Shao, "The study of death in recent years has become a meaningful subject in the field of Chinese history.  Scholarship has indicated death as a fascinating intersection of tradition and modernity, state and society, the public and the private, rituals and human emotions, and my work studies the dead body in the context of the … human-centered city." she said.

In her examination of the limits of urban life represented by these unburied bodies, she explored some of the key issues in contemporary urban studies, including the creation of an emotional infrastructure that would foster and sustain a humane city in between the forces of state power and global capitalism.

Qin Shao is Professor of History at The College of New Jersey.