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Edited by Iredale R. Robyn and Guo Fei

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Stewart Barr

The onset of anthropogenic climate change and international efforts to reduce carbon emissions has accelerated efforts to promote sustainable forms of transport and mobility. Traditionally, nation states, local authorities, and their agencies have regarded behavioral change as a key tool for reducing carbon emissions from transport. In so doing, they have focused attention on information-led campaigns, which have sought to encourage individuals to modify their travel behaviors. Yet social practice theorists have argued that individualistic approaches to behavioral change, which are often rooted in positivistic framings of linear decision making, are unlikely to be successful because they overlook the critical importance of socio-economic contexts. This chapter explores the ways in which social practice theories can set a new trajectory for exploring sustainable mobility, through opening up the debate to consider how built environments and economic systems lead to ever increasing demands for mobility and how, if we are ambitious, we can use the sustainable mobility question to start a new debate about why we need to travel in the ways we do, and how the places we live can be developed as spaces for dwelling, rather than spaces of mobility.

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Yeqing Huang and Fei Guo

The concept of social exclusion has been widely applied to explain the marginalization of rural–urban migrants in contemporary China, yet aspects of migrants’ own perceptions of their identity have received little attention. This chapter examines some of the underlying mechanisms of social exclusion in contemporary Chinese urban society by deconstructing perceived boundaries between rural–urban migrants and local urbanites. Qualitative analysis of data collected from a rural village in central China suggest that migrants’ identities are shaped and reshaped by their hukou and employment status, home ownership and social network. These factors are interwoven, leading to more than one identity in migrants’ narrative discourses. Most survey respondents, when asked to choose either a rural or an urban identity, were ambivalent, indicating apparently blurry identity boundaries. The findings highlight an intertwining effect of institutional and market forces in the process of rural–urban migrants’ identity formation and transformation in urban China.

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Yu Zhu, Baoyu Xiao and Liyue Lin

This chapter uses data from the 2010 and 2000 population censuses to examine changing spatial and temporal patterns of China’s floating population and their implications for understanding internal migration in China. The results suggest that the size of the floating population continued to increase with fast speed in the period between the two censuses, with coastal provinces in eastern China as their main receiving areas and inland provinces (especially those in central China) as their main source areas. The results also indicate that the proportion of the floating population absorbed by the eastern region declined in the years leading to the 2010 census, suggesting a shrinking migration flow to the eastern part of China. In the meantime, while the Pearl-River Delta region and the Yangtze River Delta region continued to be the two most important destination areas of China’s floating population, their relative position has changed, with the Yangtze River Delta region overtaking the Pearl-River Delta region to become the biggest receiving area of the floating population. In terms of temporal migration patterns of the floating population, the results suggest that short-term migrants still constituted the majority of the floating population, suggesting that their unsettled and unstable nature had not changed much, and that there is still a long way to go for them to settle down, either in their current or future places of destination or their place of origin. The chapter finally suggests that these temporal and spatial patterns of the floating population has important implications for understanding migrants’ identity, their future development and their impact on both sending and receiving areas.

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Dawid Wladyka and Ricard Morén-Alegret

Recent European research on diversity indicates that neighbourhoods’ spatial and social tissue is influential on inter-ethnic interactions. Additionally, studies based on the Conflict and Contact theories as well as researches based on the ‘superdiversity’ theoretical proposal underscore the contradictory outcomes which diversity may provide regarding the development of local communities. While ethnic diversity within some economic sectors has been observed as empowering social cohesion and economic development, some ways of managing diversity in the public realm have been found to be an obstacle. Chinese immigration to Barcelona increased visibly in the twenty-first century. In the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood registered foreign immigrants were roughly 18 per cent of the total population in 2013, according to the National Statistical Institute (INE). This is similar to the Barcelona average rate. Chinese residents were the most numerous foreign residents in the neighbourhood, followed by Italians and Peruvians. This chapter presents local perceptions on Chinese immigrants and their footprint on the Sagrada Familia neighbourhood’s social and economic sustainability. It is based on results extracted from the analysis of various semi-structured interviews with natives and immigrants, supplemented by the analysis of statistical and documental sources. The results show that Chinese residents’ purchasing power could provide an opportunity for empowering (or improving?) the neighbourhood’s development but the wariness of other residents towards Chinese hampers such a possibility. Unjustified rumors, a lack of local authorities’ involvement and the economic downturn have been observed as escalating conflicting attitudes towards Chinese and limiting mutual collaboration. What impact has this had on the identity of the Chinese? Have they clung together more, strengthened their Chineseness? Relied on other Chinese more? Kept close links to China?

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Weiwei Zhang and John R. Logan

This chapter focuses on the Chinese population in the United States, which predominantly consists of first generation immigrants despite the long history of Chinese immigration in this country. We identify several important features of this population. First, its rapid growth, from less than a quarter million in 1960 (of whom a majority in fact were born in the US) to over 4 million in 2012 (60% foreign-born). Second, we look at the strong regional concentration. Almost entirely a West Coast population in the nineteenth century, nearly half of Chinese still live in the West, and about a quarter in the Northeast. The pattern is changing slowly, with some notable growth in the South. Third, the relatively high socio-economic status of this minority group, similar on average to other Asian immigrants, and outperforming non-Hispanic whites on some measures is examined. However a notable feature of Chinese in America, quite unlike other racial/ethnic groups, is its polarization – large shares with very high and very low incomes. These extremes reflect differences in immigrant origins, timing of arrival, and the conditions under which they entered the country. Finally we call attention to settlement patterns within the four metropolitan regions with the largest number of Chinese residents, emphasizing their high level of suburbanization, separation from other groups, and location in relatively advantaged enclaves in both cities and suburbs.

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Debbie Kasper

In response to conclusions that a continuation of ‘business as usual’ will lead to pervasive negative socio-ecological impacts, growing numbers of researchers are calling for proactive transitions in economic, political, and energy systems. Missing, however, is a clear sense of how to effect such changes. Among the obstacles to more intentional societal change are a dominant paradigm that prioritizes individual behavior and the role of consumerism in addressing urgent environmental problems, and the absence of a general theory of how social life, and thus social change, works. Social practice theories have emerged as an antidote to the first problem, but without an organizing theory of social practice they have not been well integrated into socio-ecological research and policy. Here, I discuss figurational theory and its value as a general social theory at a high level of synthesis. Contextualizing social practice theories within this larger theoretical framework, I argue, renders them more practice-able and generates new possibilities for social practice research to inform transition efforts.

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Fei Guo and Robyn R. Iredale

China’s internal migration is often compared to international migration in the sense that internal migrants are subject to substantial institutional constraints similar to crossing national boundaries. In addition, the identity adaptation and formation process of China’s rural–urban migrants shares many similarities with that of international migrants. By including studies of both internal and international migrations in one volume, it is hoped that more accessible references could be made available in one place to readers who are not only interested in China’s internal migration and international migration but also appreciate their comparative aspects. The conclusion summarizes the major trends and looks ahead to emerging issues. Internally, we can expect significant institutional changes that will affect the scale, directions and impacts of migration. These changes have the potential to improve the status, livelihood and wellbeing of migrants. Rural left-behind village communities stand to make considerable gains as more efforts are directed at loosening the institutional regulations that are holding back agricultural development. Tapping the potential development impacts of internal migrants returning to villages will lead to major improvements in rural areas. Internationally the relationship between China and its diasporas has already changed and intensified so that mainland-centred Chinese modernity exploits the diasporas for ‘capitalist knowledge and mutual self-interest in pursuit of global superpower status’ (Ang 2013, p. 29). If just a small proportion of overseas Chinese participate in this partnership, as appears to be the case, China will continue to grow and flourish economically. How this translates into political transformation is difficult to predict.

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Zhiming Cheng, Ingrid Nielsen and Russell Smyth

This study has three purposes. The first is to examine the determinants of wage arrears among rural–urban migrants in China. The second is to examine the effect of wage arrears on economic wellbeing as proxied by wages. The third is to examine how experiencing wage arrears affects several subjective indicators of wellbeing, such as feelings of belongingness and discrimination in the city. To examine the determinants of wage arrears and its implications for socio-economic wellbeing, we employ pooled data from a unique representative dataset collected in Guangdong province, one of the major destinations for migrants in China, for the years 2006, 2008 and 2009. We find that in 2006 9 per cent of the sample reported wage arrears and that this figure fell to 6 per cent in 2008 and 7 per cent in 2009. Males were more likely to experience wage arrears as were those working for private firms and micro-entrepreneurs, relative to those working for government agencies. Those with a labour contract, those who were a member of a trade union and those who had a trade union in the workplace were less likely to experience wage arrears. Those experiencing wage arrears received 3.8 per cent higher monthly wages, were 11.4 per cent more likely to perceive that life was difficult in the city, were 6.8 per cent more likely to perceive that their status was lower than others in the city and were 5.6 per cent more likely to believe life would be easier with a non-agricultural household registration.

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Julia Backhaus, Harald Wieser and René Kemp

This chapter illustrates that broadening the analysis of practices to characteristics on the part of practice-carriers, as well as to systemic factors, bears improved understanding of reasons for practice variability and opens up practice research to more quantitative methodological approaches. Reminiscent of Reckwitz’s (2002) frequently cited definition of a practice as ‘a routinised type of behaviour which consists of several elements, interconnected to one other’ (p. 249), we attempt to unpack these elements, yet refrain from focusing solely on the constituents of practices. The conceptual framework we develop to cope with practice variations is based on the notion of ‘webs of entangled elements’ across production–consumption systems, practices, and their carriers. Our findings are based on empirical data derived from several in-depth interviews and a survey of more than 1200 respondents (as carriers of practices) in three European countries (Austria, Hungary, and the Netherlands as different production–consumption systems). Results show how some elements of the practice of food purchasing intersect with other practices, most notably with working. Further, practice performances shift with changing life circumstances and time constraints, after a significant experience or simply due to information gleaned through the media. These shifts in practice performances, which otherwise are rather stable for longer periods of time, can be viewed as punctuated equilibria, with one and the same person being able to perform sets of practices belonging to different equilibria, depending on which set of materials, meanings, and competences she is drawing.