Dancers at the Metropole Gardens Ballroom in Shanghai, from an illustration published in  Liangyou Magazine  in 1936.

Dancers at the Metropole Gardens Ballroom in Shanghai, from an illustration published in Liangyou Magazine in 1936.

Welcome to Shanghai Sojourns, the website of scholar, historian, professor, and filmmaker Andrew David Field.

Here on this website you will find links to articles and books that I have written or co-written for academic presses. Most of my research, writing, and filming focuses on the cultural and social history of Shanghai and on contemporary urban music scenes in China including jazz, blues, dance, and rock scenes, although I am branching out into other topics as well.

I have been a long-term resident of Shanghai, for a total of around 15 out of the past 20 years, and I have written extensively about urban cultural and social scenes in the city and in other cities such as Beijing. I have also co-produced an independent documentary film, Down: Indie Rock in the PRC.

Professor Field on the Shanghai Bund, Chinese New Year, Feb 5 2019

Professor Field on the Shanghai Bund, Chinese New Year, Feb 5 2019

I also blog extensively about life in China as well as my travels abroad, particularly in the Asian world region.

Recently, I created two special blogs where I have been archiving articles about Shanghai’s history that I’ve collected over many years of research. My blog Shanghai’s Dancing World focuses on the nightlife industry of Shanghai in the 1920s-1940s. The other blog I started, A Shanghai History Primer offers more general articles about Shanghai’s history. And I have started an “encyclopedia” of the 1920s-1930s Shanghai Jazz Age.

I also serve as a Shanghai tour guide on occasion, leading residents and visitors of the city on tours of the heart of the former French Concession, the Hotel and Theater district in the former International Settlement, the Bund by day or by night, and elsewhere. Over the past 15 years I have led hundreds of tours of the city for various groups both large and small. For more information on these tours, please contact the tour provider Shanghai Flaneur. Or you may write directly to me at shanghaidrew@gmail.com.

Philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin in the 1930s

Philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin in the 1930s

What is a flaneur?

I consider myself a flaneur of sorts. A flaneur is an on-the-streets observer and philosopher of modern urban life. The original French term, which Baudelaire used, meant something of a loafer or stroller along the streets and avenues of Paris. Walter Benjamin took it a step further, bringing the term into his analysis of Nineteenth Century Paris in what eventually (well after his death) became the book The Arcades Project. This is a book full of quotes from the literature that Benjamin was reading in the Paris library and from observations of his own on modern urban life and related subjects, including architecture, literature, philosophy, etc. The model of The Arcades Project was one of my inspirations when I first conceived this blog in 2006.

When I walk the streets of Shanghai, or for that matter, Bangkok, Boston, Beijing, or Barcelona, I’m writing books in my mind. My walking tours of Shanghai for the group Shanghai Flaneur (which has also inspired me over the years) and other groups I’ve been part of over the past decade or so are what I call my “walking talking books.”

For more insight into the figure of the flaneur, check out these online essays:

In Praise of the Flaneur

Baudelaire, Benjamin and the Birth of the Flaneur