Document Type

Occasional Paper

Paper Type

Student Research

Publication Date

Fall 2014


Over the past thirty years, China’s museum sector has experienced exponential growth with the expansion of thousands of new museums, both public and private. This paper seeks to understand this growth as an urban phenomenon that is simultaneously reconfiguring urban space and citizen subjectivities by framing the emergence of new and increasingly spectacular exhibitory institutions in China within the context of political, economic, and cultural policy shifts. Through the examination of the evolution of the museum in China and its symbolic relevance from its origins in an era of semi-colonialism into the contemporary period and recent trends of property-led redevelopment, I argue that museums have come to represent assertions of power and modernity built into the urban landscape. As a result, I assert that these institutions have emerged as critical influences on the configuration of the contemporary Chinese city and national identity, guided by and ongoing legacies of domestic policy and the pursuit of global recognition through culture, spectacle, and urban development.


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Occasional Paper Number