restricted access The Beggar's Play: Poverty, Coercion, and Performance in Shenyang, China

This article examines begging in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang as a form of street theater rather than as simply a sign of poverty. Begging performances play upon key cultural scripts and anxieties to unsettle and disturb potential donors, thus increasing the size of the gift. Using the story of an encounter between a street beggar and a foreign English teacher, the article argues that for ordinary Chinese urban residents, begging is an uncomfortable reminder of the costs of development and modernization.