Urban and Population Geography working group

Bercht, A. L. (2013): Stresserleben, Emotionen und Coping in Guangzhou, China. Mensch-Umwelt-Transaktionen aus geographischer und psychologischer Perspektive. Stuttgart.

As recently as 35 years ago, the People’s Republic of China was far from integrated in the process of globalization; it remained, in fact, strongly isolated from the world’s political arena. Today, however, China has the second largest economy in the world; a benefit of the 1978 decision to open up its economic and political policies. Meanwhile, China has experienced inconceivable levels of economic growth, urban expansion and transformation. The megacity Guangzhou, located in the Pearl River Delta in southern China, represents an excellent example that demonstrates this dynamic developmental process. Driven by intense intercity competition on a regional, national and international scale, the Guangzhou government pursues the predominant aim of becoming one of China’s most important railway passenger hubs by constructing in Shibi, a village situated in the periurban area of Guangzhou, the Guangzhou South Railway Station, the largest railway passenger station in Asia.

Taking the large-scale project’s implementation as a key example for rapid urban transformation processes occurring within only a few months or years, and drawing on the transactional stress model of Lazarus, it is one of the two major goals of this present work to analyse the influence of the socioeconomic, ecological and socio-spatial changes (e.g. land expropriation, anticipated resettlement) on the transactions between man and environment with regards to individuals’ subjective perceptions and appraisals of stress, emotions, coping and resilience. Applying a qualitative-interpretive research design including the method of problem-based interviews (with narrative sequences) and the method of autophotography, the complex interrelations and meanings of the different person-environment transactions are investigated epistemologically from the perspective of 62 interviewed residents. The research investigations were carried out from 2007 to 2011.

Due to the complexity and diversity of the research subject, equal attention is given to the features of the following relevant concepts: person-environment transaction, time, perception, appraisal, emotion, behaviour, action, stress, coping and resilience. Each of these concepts is discussed in great detail from both a geographical and a psychological perspective in order to illustrate the added value of a transdisciplinary analysis. Current academic literature has as yet failed to address the present research subject from a transdisciplinary perspective. However, a transdisciplinary reflection might lead to an integrative ‘culture of discourse’. The empirical results indicate that intrapsychological processes of perception, appraisal and action as well as cognitive, preconscious behaviour and directly observable action characterize the active involvement of the interviewees with their environments. In particular, intrapsychological problem- and emotionfocussed, offensive coping modes and person variables such as internal loci of control or optimism have a positive influence on stress experience and individual resilience.

In the context of the urbanization processes in China that are worldwide unique in terms of their dynamics, rapidness and dimensions, the analysis of stress, emotions, coping and resilience opens up a comparatively young and to date insufficiently studied field of research. Its topicality and future relevance make fundamental investigations necessary.


Dissertation available from Steiner Verlag