Session 6 at the next conference of the Italian Urban History Association on foreign concessions in China and more specifically in Tianjin.

IX AISU Congress (Associazione Italiana di Storia Urbana)
Macro-session 1: Mobility and interculturality. The city facing new relational systems

Between 1860 and 1947, nine foreign powers – the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Germany, Japan, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Belgium – shared 15 Ha in the immediate vicinity of the Chinese city of Tianjin. These concessions and their relationship with the Chinese city formed a real microcosm of the first globalization, in which the agenda of the modern city was defined. The history of Tianjin is emblematic of an intercultural cooperation project to define a form of urban and political modernity based on an imperial and violent history (perhaps the most emblematic episode of which remains the Boxer revolt and its repression).

The creation of concessions is accompanied by the construction of new urban spaces incorporating Western architecture and construction techniques. This implantation of European spaces in non-European territory confronts two urban traditions – Western and Chinese – and invites us to question the impact of globalization on urban areas. While architectural vocabulary tended to bring out the national image – much like the rue des nations visible within the world fairs – the urban form of streets and parcels gave a strong homogeneity to the western sector. It is built in contact with, and in opposition to the "native city" of the old Chinese neighbourhood.

In addition to the historical and spatial study of the concessions and their relationship with the Chinese city, we would like to discuss the current fate of this sector, from the former Tientsin to the current Tianjin. In recent years, the municipal government seems to have considered the vestiges of the concessions as tourist and economic opportunities. This process of heritagization is made possible by an evolution in the perception of concessions, no longer only as a trace of the former imperialist presence, but more as a sign of modernity, capable of attracting new mobility, linked with tourism and creative industry. The development of this architectural heritage raises the question of its past and future, and the insertion of the heritage of the first globalization in current urban modernization.

The study of Tianjin touches different aspects of urban history whose documentation must be researched in many countries. We welcome scholars from different countries dealing with the architectural and urban history of Tianjin as well as its current heritagization. These aspects could be put in perspective with that of other concessions held by foreign powers on Chinese Territory.


We invite you to send the proposal between 1500 and 2500 characters to session coordinators, as well as conference organizers ([email protected]) using the template at the bottom of the following page:

Notification of acceptance will be issued by 31 March 2019 and a draft of the communication is due by 31 May 2019.

After the conference, we plan to publish the papers in a special issue of a journal.

You will find the financial conditions of registration for the congress at the following address: