James Farrer

Sociologist James Farrer, and author of Shanghai Nightscapes: A Nocturnal Biography of a Global City has been clubbing for decades in Shanghai. But lately, the fun is gone, he tells an NPR reporter while cruising the city.


Farrer says this is a turnaround from the early days of clubbing in Shanghai when there was room to dance and for people from different walks of life to connect. Now, they just sit in groups and stare at their cell phones. Farrer finds it depressing.

“You see people not really communicating with each other,” he says. “You see dance clubs where, quite frankly, almost nobody is dancing. It’s all about you controlling your space, hanging out with your friends and showing off your money to a very limited number of people.”

Farrer says it’s also a sign of how stratified China’s richest city has become.

It’s now past 1 a.m. I thank Farrer for the tour and he walks back toward his hotel. I hop in a taxi and head home. Along the way, I think about how the city’s nightlife has re-emerged in the past two decades, creating opportunities for people to come together, but also — as in the case of our last stop – to stand apart.

More at NPR.

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