Hybrid Urbanism: On the Identity Discourse and the Built Environment

Hybrid Urbanism: On the Identity Discourse and the Built Environment

Hybrid Urbanism: On the Identity Discourse and the Built Environment

Hybrid Urbanism: On the Identity Discourse and the Built Environment

Synopsis

Despite strong forces toward globalization, much of late 20th century urbanism demonstrates a movement toward cultural differentiation. Such factors as ethnicity and religious and cultural heritages have led to the concept of hybridity as a shaper of identity. Challenging the common assumption that hybrid peoples create hybrid places and hybrid places house hybrid people, this book suggests that hybrid environments do not always accommodate pluralistic tendencies or multicultural practices. In contrast to the standard position that hybrid space results from the merger of two cultures, the book introduces the concept of a third place and argues for a more sophisticated understanding of the principal.

In contributed chapters, the book provides case studies of the third place, enabling a comparative and transnational examination of the complexity of hybridity. The book is divided into two parts. Part one deals with pre-20th century examples of places that capture the intersection of modernity and hybridity. Part two considers equivalent sites in the late 20th century, demonstrating how hybridity has been a central feature of globalization.

Excerpt

The idea behind this book goes back to 1996 and a discussion I had with two of my Ph.D. students. The students were concerned that, as prospective urban historians working on Third World topics, they were unlikely to get me jobs they desired in the United States. They were also concerned that working on cities and places that were “hybrid” and principally constituted of people of different ethnicities, cultures and religions was going to further limit their chances. I was especially puzzled that two relatively bright students could feel this sense of insecurity, and I could only respond by reminding mem that the choice and pursuit of a research topic has always been about the politics of position. I recognized that, like the environments and the peoples they elected to study, these students were struggling with their scholarly identities. It was as if they wanted to have their cake and eat it too. They desired the respect and security they thought would be afforded scholars working on First World environments within the confines of such established disciplines as architectural history or material-culture studies, and at the same time, they wanted the attention that would come from being creative intellectuals taking on new topics and pursuing them in innovative ways in unconventional sites. Simultaneously, they wanted “sameness” and “difference.” It was this encounter that prompted me to think about the subject of hybrid urbanism, for I realized that what these students were seeking was precisely what the people who lived in the hybrid places they studied seem to have achieved.

Hybridity is a very complex notion. At its most basic level, it has meant the interbreeding or mixing of different peoples, cultures and societies. In the last few years many good books have been authored and edited on hybridity and the concept of a “third space.” However, few of these have attempted to ground themselves in the concrete realities of the physical environment: in neighborhoods, housing projects, urban squares, and city streets. This is the added dimension this volume hopes to provide. Anchoring their work in specific case . . .

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