Photo Essay: Numbers in Beijing

I returned to Beijing from AAS last Saturday.  The panel that I participated in was organized by Prof. Jain and Prof. Tong (University of Toronto).  The resulting conversations and discussions were fruitful to understanding my own work as well as seeing potential comparative studies with Chennai and Ambon.

Prof. Spyer (NYU/University of Amsterdam) began her paper by referencing de Certeau’s notion of name versus number.  She explored the tension in Ambon’s religious communities between the number and the individual.  Prof. Jain then drew a parallel between one of my images of phone numbers on hoardings that are painted over by the government in the name of ‘city beautification.’

This week, with numbers on my mind,  I started re-seeing the profusion of numbers in Beijing.  Phone numbers to call to sell back medicine, numbers to call for faked documents, cell phone numbers to buy, numbers for all imaginable services.  Below are some of my recent photos of this phenomenon.  The essay theorizing this aspect of Beijing’s visual culture is in the works.  For now enjoy the photos.


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