The Baltic Pearl in the window to Europe: St. Petersburg's Chinese quarter
Dixon, Megan Lori, 1969-
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Dixon, Megan Lori, 1969-
This dissertation focuses on an urban development project outside St. Petersburg, Russia, called the Baltic Pearl. Financed by a consortium of firms based in Shanghai, China, the Baltic Pearl signals several changes in contemporary Russia. At the scale of the region and the nation-state, the project reflects growing political cooperation between the Russian and Chinese governments; it also parallels an increase in economic partnership, including use of Chinese labor. However, social processes at the scale of the city may militate against the success of this project. City residents fearful of rumored Chinese migration feel alarm over the Baltic Pearl because they associate it with narratives of Chinatowns inhabited by labor migrants; other residents already resentful of being left behind in the economic transformation associate the project with the city administration's neglect of their needs. Thus, closer examination of the Baltic Pearl offers the opportunity to gauge commonalities in the causes behind xenophobia and claims of dispossession. Using a theoretical approach based on both humanist and critical geography, I develop an original reading of Henri Lefebvre's The Production of Space to which I give the term socio-spatial paradigm. This concept allows me to conduct an analysis of spatialities in statements of the vision and purpose of the Baltic Pearl made by various individuals and groups. I consider the negotiation over the project's form between Chinese and Russian officials, planners, and architects; local protest and support for the quarter as articulated in newspaper articles, blogs, a survey, and interviews; and individual narratives of spatial form in the city as recounted in a survey and interviews. The aim of the different analyses is to evaluate the capacity of St. Petersburg to adapt to global pressures related to economic restructuring and migration streams, and to become a truly "world city" in terms of cultural multiplicity as well as financial capacity. The conclusion discusses the commensurability of information gained at different scales, from interview narratives to government statements. The study asserts the need to develop better models for incorporating information gained at finer scales into our evaluation of state-to-state relations.