Topics in Digital Humanities: Street Food & Urban Farming

This course introduces and makes use of digital tools (audio, video and mapping technologies) to research and record an immersive engagement with the city. It also includes a lab-based workshop in interactive media that is designed around a relevant theme. This semester the course focuses on street food & urban farming.

The preservation, adaptation and disappearance of street food raise many issues that are central to contemporary Shanghai:  globalization, creativity and cultural heritage, urbanization, the informal economy, and the environment. This course examines these topics by focusing on the following questions: How is Shanghai working to both integrate and exclude its migrant population? What room is there for itinerant vendors and the informal markets of the streets in the 21st century metropolis? What role does creativity play in the attempts to preserve the city’s culinary heritage? How does street food contribute to the city’s attempts to provide safe, affordable and nutritious food for its ever-growing population?

Adding an extra dimension to our analysis of food in the city, the course will include an intensive workshop on urban farming led by experts in the field. This will involve; an introduction to the challenges and opportunities of urban farming in China; a tour to a local urban garden, and a hands-on component aimed at building a hydroponic window farm in the IMA lab.

Sample Syllabus

Week 1

Week 2
Markets vs Capitalism

Braudel, Fernand, Wheels of Commerce: Civilization & Capitalism 15th-18th Century, (Excerpts);

Braudel, Fernand, The Perspective of the World: Civilization & Capitalism 15th-18th Century, (Excerpts);

Manuel Delanda, Markets and Antimarkets in the World Economy, 

Week 3
Urbanization and Migration in China

Fan, Cindy, The Hukou (household registration) System

& The Chinese Migrant in the 21st Century in

China on the Move: Migration, the state and the household;

Nyiri, Pal, Internal Migration in Reform China, Mobility and Cultural Authority in Contemporary China;

Parag Khanna, Beyond City Limits, Foreign Policy Magazine. September/October 2010;

Doug Saunders, By Century’s End We Will be an Entirely Urban Species, The Spectator, Aug 5

Vilem Flusser, Thinking about Nomadism, The Freedom of the Migrant.

Week 4
Street Vendors

Arvind Rajagopal: The Menace of Hawkers: Property Forms and the Politics of Market Liberalization in Mumbai in Caroline Humphrey and Katherine Verdery eds. Changing Property Regimes in Eastern Europe. Wenner Gren Foundation and Bergen Press, London, U.K. pp. 227-250;

John C Cross, Pirates on the high streets: The street as a site of local resistance to globalization & Alfonso Morales, Conclusion, Law deviance, and defining vendors and vending in Street Entrepreneurs: People, place and politics in local and global perspective;

Itikawa, Luciana, Clandestine Geometries: Mapping Street Vending in Downtown Sao Paola in Street Vendors in the Global Economy, Apr 2011

Week 5
Informal Economy & Chengguan

Manuel Castells and Alenjandro Portes, World Underneath: The Origins, Dynamics and Effects of the Informal Economy in Alenjandro Portes ed. ‘The Informal Economy;

Martha Alter Chen, Rethinking the Informal Economy: Linkages with the Formal Economy and the Formal Regulatory Environment;

Robert Neuwirth. The Shadow Superpower, Foreign Policy, October 28 2011.

Jiang S., Wu X., & Wang S. (2012). “Cat VS Mouse”: a survey about the itinerant venders’ living condition and their interactive relationship with chengguan in Guangzhou, Chongqing and Hangzhou. Sun Yat-Sen University. Retrieved from

Swider, S. (2014). Reshaping China's urban citizenship: Street vendors, chengguan and struggles over the right to the city. Critical Sociology. [online before print]. Retrieved from

Human Rights Watch. (2012). “Beat him, take everything away”–abuses by China’s chengguan para-police. Retrieved from

Bell, J.S., & Loukaitou-Sideris, A. (2014). Sidewalk informality: An examination of street vending regulation in China. International Planning Studies. [online before print]. Retrieved from

Week 6
Urban Farming Workshop: Britta Riley (

* Readings TBA

Week 7
Mapping Presentations

Week 8
Migrant Entrepreneurs

Bonachich, Edna, A theory of middleman minorities, merican Sociological Review 38, (October 1973): 585-594;

Light, Ivan, Immigrant and ethnic enterprise in North America, Ethnic and Racial Studies Volume 7, Number 2, April 1984

Week 9
Street Food

Tinker, Irene. Part II: The Street Food Project: Influencing Development and Practice, Street Foods : Urban Food and Employment in Developing Countries. Cary, NC, USA: Oxford University Press, 1997;

Jhabvala, Renana Forward & Bhowmik, Sharit, Introduction in Street Vendors in the Global Economy, Apr 2011

Week 10
Culinary Traditions

Anderson, E.N., The Food of China (excerpts);

Chang KC, Food in Chinese Culture: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives (excerpts);

Mark Swislocki, Culinary Nostalgia: Regional Food Culture and the Urban Experience in Shanghai (excerpts) 

Week 11
Interview Presentations

Week 12
Urban Farming guest lectures

David Li,  Farm Together,

Nunzia Carbone,  Edible Cities,

 DH: Mapping Workshop 2: Odyssey

Week 13
Urban Farming Field Trip

Week 14
Conclusion: Street Vending in the 21st century Metropolis

Ray Bromely, Forward , John C Cross and Alfonse Morales. Introduction: Locating street markets in the modern/ postmodern world  & John C Cross and Marina Karides, Capitalism, modernity and the appropriate use of space in Street Entrepreneurs: People, place and politics in local and global perspective