Wounded Cities: Destruction and Reconstruction in a Globalized World

Wounded Cities: Destruction and Reconstruction in a Globalized World

Wounded Cities: Destruction and Reconstruction in a Globalized World

Wounded Cities: Destruction and Reconstruction in a Globalized World

Synopsis

Although the seemingly apocalyptic scale of the World Trade Center disaster continues to haunt people across the globe, it is only the most recent example of a city tragically wounded. Cities are, in fact, perpetually caught up in cycles of degeneration and renewal. As with the WTC, from time to time these cycles are severely ruptured by a sudden, unpredictable event.In the wake of recent terrorist activities, this timely book explores how urban populations are affected by wounds inflicted through violence, civil wars, overbuilding, drug trafficking, and the collapse of infrastructures, as well as natural disasters such as earthquakes. Mexico City, New York, Beirut, Belfast, Bangkok and Baghdad are just a few examples of cities riddled with problems that undermine, on a daily basis, the quality of urban life. What does it mean for urban dwellers when the infrastructure of a city collapses transport, communication grids, heat, light, roads, water, and sanitation? What are the effects of foreign investment and huge construction projects on urban populations and how does this change the look and character of a city? How does drug trafficking intersect with class, race, and gender, and what impact does it have on vulnerable urban communities? How do political corruption and mafia networks distort the built environment?Drawing on in-depth case studies from across the globe, this book answers these intriguing questions through its rigorous consideration of changing global and national contexts, social movements, and corrosive urban events. Adopting a grass roots up approach, it places emphasis on peoples experiences of uneven development and inequality, their engagement with memory in the face of continual change, and the relevance of political activism to bettering their lives. It is especially attentive to the historical interaction of particular cities with wider political and economic forces, as these interactions have shaped local governance over time. Imagining each city as a body politic, the authors consider its capacity both to mediate local conflict and to broach the healing of wounds.

Excerpt

Across the world people who live in, have abandoned or been expelled from cities can testify to the mounting crises of contemporary urban life. Tempestuous “acts of nature,” no doubt intensified by global warming, stir up crises as do civil wars and preemptive wars of occupation pursued on urban turf. Increasingly, urban wounds also result from globalization processes, unfolding with few constraints since the 1980s. Whatever the source of the affliction, wounded cities, like all cities, are dynamic entities, replete with the potential to recuperate loss and reconstruct anew for the future. Globalization processes are ever more evident in the rebuilding, too. Implicit in this understanding is a framework of analysis that conceptualizes cities from two contrasting, irreducible points of view. On the one hand is the city as a body politic, capable of being collectively wounded and of responding as such; on the other hand, the city is a site where powerful external forces intersect, intensifying differences and conflicts among local groups.

This framework evolved out of a series of informal exchanges in the late 1990s among urban ethnographers in New York City, several of whom were also engaged with urban researchers elsewhere. It was further elaborated at an April 2000 workshop, sponsored by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. There a debate emerged regarding the idea of urban “wounding” which, as an organic metaphor, implies a vision of collective well-being that must be negotiated within an identifiable, bounded place. Participants were concerned that this implication deflects attention from the wider field of forces penetrating cities and transforming their internal relations. It also seduces us into forgetting that cities are nested within regional and national entities, not to mention ringed by suburbs, whose taxing and spending practices can help or harm, at times quite dramatically. And yet the image is crucial and compelling. When we take past histories and external pressures into account, it has the . . .

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