Urban Planning in a Multicultural Society

By Michael A. Burayidi | Go to book overview
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anthropologists observe that what really distinguishes people from each other is not race, but culture ( Cohen 1998). People might belong to the same race but exhibit entirely different cultures. In the same vein, people of different races may share similar values and social norms. Hence, culture and race are not synonymous although the two are often portrayed that way.

The essays in this volume tell us that planners are gradually warming up to the realization of the importance of cultural considerations in planning. The objectives of the book are twofold: First, our objective is to show that culture matters in planning. We argue that planners are not value neutral but that through their professional training and in their personal upbringing they are imbued with values that they bring to their professional practice. These values may not always be congruent with those of the community groups with whom they plan. In the pursuit of their professional practice, therefore, it is important for planners to pay attention to the tensions that may arise between them and their clients, the values that might cloud their judgment, and the frustrations that may result from planning with a diverse multicultural public. Most importantly, we hope that an a priori sensibility to culture will aid planners to arrive at amicable solutions that are satisfactory to both planners and the public and thereby improve professional morale rather than create frustration. The case studies and examples of planning practices discussed in the book provide lessons of how cultural sensitivity in planning can be achieved.

The second objective of the book is a much more limited one. It is our hope that the book will serve as an impetus to planning educators as they begin the arduous task of incorporating culture into planning curricula. If we are to make a difference in planning practice, it must start with the way we train future planners. Hopefully, this book will make it all too clear why planning schools need to sensitize students to planning with a cultural sensibility.

The publication of this book is itself an acknowledgment that a new epoch has dawned on planning. It is a recognition that as we approach the twenty-first century, we must critically rethink planning's role in shaping our communities. Doing so requires planners to cast a wider net to embrace a multicultural, diverse, global, and postmodern perspective of the world in which we live and the communities with which we plan. Anything less is professional stagnation!

Throughout this book, culture is used in both its broadest and narrowest sense. In its narrow sense, culture is used to denote the commonly held norms, beliefs, and values that a social group shares as a result of birth or socialization and that governs the group's worldview. More broadly, culture is also used in reference to all socially patterned human thought and behavior. In this sense, it includes what people think, what they do, and the artifacts they make. It also includes aesthetics, manners and customs, social institutions, religion, values and attitudes, bodily adornment, etiquette, eating customs, housing, physical infrastructure, clothing, and music. While some of the authors in this volume adhere to the


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Urban Planning in a Multicultural Society
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