AUTHOR: Madlen Kobi
CONTEXT: Paper presentation at the conference of the German Anthropological Association GAA at the Freie Universität Berlin, 4.-7.10.2017
KEYWORDS: China, Chongqing, material culture, microclimate, urban anthropology
In this paper, I emphasize the need for a more tangible urban anthropology. Buildings are not the stage for everyday life, but essentially constituting it. From a perspective of material culture, buildings (like roads, public squares or parks) are objects constructed by various actors like architects, engineers, workers and residents. Including the built environment in anthropological research on topics like status differentiation, social segregation or place-making enriches findings in and on urban life. Drawing on my own research, I outline how microclimates in urban apartments in the metropolis Chongqing (Southwest China), are the result of a constant negotiation of architectural possibilities, ecological concerns, socio-technical skills, personal comfort and aspirations of modernity. I ethnographically explore human engagements with materialities and technologies in creating comfortable living spaces. By considering both the architectural structure and the social practices attached to the house, I inquire in what ways discursive references to the “right” climate interfere with the actual physical adaptations and uses of apartments in high-rise buildings.