Placing trust in community planning
Communities aren’t born in an instant, but are rather built over time from a composite of factors concerning the people, politics, culture, landscape and more. This is the focus of a piece of research by KTP Visiting Fellow Associate Professor Xiaoxing Huang, from the Department of Sociology and Social Work at Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China.
During his visit to UTS, Huang worked alongside Dr Bligh Grant, Senior Lecturer at the UTS Institute for Public Policy and Governance, on research into place shaping.
The focus of Huang’s recent research paper resonated with Grant, who wrote his PhD on place shaping, exploring village and community governance. Similar to Huang, Grant is also interested in geomancy, commonly seen as feng shui for the community, which is about identifying and tapping into the spiritual energies in a place or landscape.
Place shaping is about developing communities to make them more prosperous, enjoyable and safe, as well as focusing on building community identity, character and economic opportunities. Key to the theory is an understanding that social, political and cultural influences shape the construction of a ‘place’.
As Grant puts it, place shaping is about “dragging the past through to the future, to retain cultural identity.”
Huang’s paper concentrated on a case study about the planning and building of a Teochew village in Southeast China. Grant has a strong background in the theory behind place shaping, so they thought it was a good fit for research collaboration.
Huang gave a public seminar at UTS presenting his paper entitled, ‘Fish Scales and Bird’s Wings: Place-shaping in a village planning process in Southeast China’, which was well-received.
“We have found out more about theory, the paper and political d'etat,” says Huang of his time in the KTP Visiting Fellow Program. “I have really enjoyed living in Sydney and enjoyed the office at UTS.”
Following on from the program, both he and Grant are looking ahead to future collaboration in this field, to working further on Huang’s paper and Grant says they are also hoping to explore possibilities for joint PhDs.
“I think it is a fantastic program and it has been extremely well supported by UTS. I really like the organisation of it.”
Since the time of writing, Dr Grant has been actively collaborating with leading academics from SYSU in the areas of local governance and urban policies. He has been invited by the School of Government at SYSU to visit the university in April to further develop research collaboration between UTS and SYSU.