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Cosmopolis Ii Mongrel Cities Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 2321 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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21st Century will embrace a world of multicultural, multiethical and multiracial cities. How to deal with the conflicts and struggles of different identities, cultures and thoughts brought by increasing immigrants and minorities becomes a big issue recently. In this book 'Cosmopolis II: Mongrel cities in the 21st century', the author Leonie Sandercock presents a better understanding of difference's emergence in the city according to globalization and other related social forces. Then she discusses the challenges for professions like planning, architecture, landscape architecture or engineer in this new era (world of cosmopolis/ mongrel cities) about how to build up a world for everyone with a feeling 'being at home'.

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This book is not the first to come up with the understanding and problems or challenges in professional fields. However, in author's own words, 'it is the first to give systematic attention to the crumbling pillars of modernist planning, and to suggest a way out of the impasse, a way of advancing a progressive planning practice in 21st century, based on the insights of feminist, postmodern and postcolonial thinking.' (P.2) This book is both sober and utopian. Sandercock elaborates many complex problems through looking over the history and analyzing the reasons of emergences in spatial theoretically. At the same time, she tries to open up an idea of opportunity and possibilities for transformative planning. This book pays much attention of the 'six pillars' of modernist planning as rationally, comprehensiveness and scientific method, working as state-directed which only mainstream's notions are considered. In author's opinion, to welcome the coming of cosmopolis, deconstruction of 'six pillars' and rebuilding of new qualitied planning imagination according to new social justice and order are necessary. Many fantastic cases are brought in from western countries(mostly) to discover different aspects and solutions. For instance, cases from United Sates, Brazil, South Africa and some European countries are discussed to find out different discourses of fear while Frankfurt, Rotterdam, Sydney and Vancouver are introduced as successful cases of integrating immigrants.

Contemporary cites are suffering from two different kinds of struggles: one is the struggle of life space with economic space, the other is struggle for the sense of belonging. Therefore, Sandercock suggests a new demographic reconstruction besides political economies. She calls on attention 'to the emotional economies of the cities as it is to the political economies; to city senses (of sound, sight, touch, smell, taste) as to city censuses; to the soft-wired desires of citizens as it is to the hard-wired infrastructures.'

Content of Cosmopolis II

The book is divided into three parts: looking back (modernist planning and its discontents), looking forward (mongrel cities and the 21st-century multicultural project) and towards a new planning imagination.

The first part looks back to 20th century to discuss the existing planning system (modernist planning), planning history and epistemology of multiplicity. At the beginning, Sandercock reviews the history of Birmingham, a 'city of everyone' through the past half century. Confusion and problems are coming out in this postcolonial city because of the multicultural. The increasing immigrants start to challenge the existing planning system (state-designated). To response to the cities of difference, Sandercock provides six fragments of a radical postmodern planning practice resulting from hybridity, mongrelization and cross-breeding. Then, Sandercock sets out to revise the planning history. The official history is always described as no fatal flows and working as solution-driven.It seems that the noir (insurgent planning history) is not existing. However, planning in the mongrel cities in 21st century, we need a new approach rather than modernist paradigm to bring a different future imagine. The insurgent planning history built and kept by invisible minorities(female, lesbian, gay, immigrants and so on) is very significant to re-present a whole planning history. This leads to the following arguments about 'who knows'. Thanks to the Enlightenment, modernist planning privileges this epistemology of the Enlightenment as the only way without recognizing other ways of seeing/knowing. And only rational, technical and scientific methods are considered as right and good to modernist planning. The author, as a feminist (minority) is more sensitive to discover the flaws of this epistemology and suggests that an epistemology of multiplicity should be built and more ways of knowledge (based on practices of talking, listening,sharing,seeing) gained are encouraged from other participants in other fields except profession field of planning.

In the second part, it concentrates on the issue 'how we could live together in mongrel cities'. First Sandercock discusses four different imagings of 'living together': Richard Sennett's 'togetherness in difference'; James Donald's 'ethical indifference to difference'; the British Home Office's 'public order and community cohesion' and Ash Amin's 'a politics of local liveability'. Here, Sandercock supports the idea of Ash Amin that 'micro-publics' where communications and negotiations are compulsory in sites of places such as schools, companies, clubs and community centers will be the real multicultural atmosphere and dialogue. Although there is a limits, it is a new way of accommodating difference without considering ethnic issues and thinking of immigrants as included in the system, not a 'guest'. The central notion of this part is 'how to negotiate multi-identities and provide the sense of being at home'. To response to this question, Sandercock composes her own multicultural perspectives and defines it as 'the common good must be generated not by transcending or ignoring cultural and other differences, but through their interplay in a dialogical, agonistic political life' and 'a sense of belonging cannot be ethnic or based on shared cultural, ethnic or other characteristics A sense of belonging must ultmatey be political, based on a shared commitment to a political community.' (P.104) Sandercock's new idea about commitment between political community and members breaks the boundary of ethnic groups.

Our history of planning could also be a history of managing fear in the city. In Chapter five, fear especially fear of outsiders, strangers and foreigners are discussed. People's fear come from both material and psychology. Losing the sense of belonging, safety and social order will lead to a fear of stranger/outsider that immigrants are excluded and unwelcome. Fear is an obstacle of multicultural imagination which planners should overcome. Then, Sandercock provides several cases from Frankfurt, Rotterdam, Sydney and Vancouver as positive examples of integrating immigrants and living together. After discussing about four challenges of existing planning systems and five response to difference, the author provides seven policy directions at the end of this part.

In the third part, Sandercock prospects a new planning imagination, a new world of cosmopolis. Three case studies (Redfern in Sydney, Emerson Park in United Sates and Birmingham in UK) are representatives of transformative planning practices. They bring in new planning strategies 'therapeutic process', 'empowerment model' and 'a diversity of cultural capitalisms' separately.After this, Sandercock uses an independent chapter talking about the importance of telling story which I'll discuss more in the rest of this essay. In the last chapter, Sandercock advocates that we are shiting from metropolis to cosmopolis with a fantastic imagine of multicultural society. She comes up with new six pillars for planning and five qualities of new planning imagination which are 'therapeutic approach', 'expanding political horizons', 'daring to break the rules','creativity' and 'managing critical sensibility'. At last, she argues the duty of planners should be 'organizing hope, negotiating fear, mediating memory, and daring to break rules, as well as developing the habits of a critical/analytical mind'. (P.227)

There are several aspects related to seminar discussion and inspiring and critical according to my personal comments which I want to discuss more in the rest of this essay. They are 'therapeutic and story telling', 'diversity and multicultural' and 'the right to the city'.

Therapeutic and Story Telling

Therapeutic is brought in during the discussion of transformative planning practice of Redfern in Sydney .This term first showing up in planning field was 40 years ago, by Sherry Arnstein (1969) in her 'ladder of citizen participation'. In her notion, 'therapeutic' is a way to make people feel good by listening to their concerns and consulting them without taking their ideas seriously. For Arnstein, therapeutic is a manipulation rather than real concerns. However, as to Sandercock, it is quite different, she regards therapeutic as 'a way denoting essential quality of community organization and social planning'.(P.160) In this case of Redfern (inner Sydney neighborhood), the social planning consultant, Dr Wendy Sarkissian hired by the Council to deal with the conflicts of land use between tree different groups held a three month's meeting process to talk with the individual and groups from each camp. To generate this meeting process, Sarkissian created 'a safe space in which parties could meet and speak without fear without fear of being dismissed, attacked, or humiliated'(P.161)

Planners should try to help people speaking out their fears and concerns in a common place with sense of safety and trust. The different use of therapeutic from Arnstein's is that planners here real cares about the notions of participants, try to help them negotiate with each other and will take participants' concerns into consideration in the future planning.

John Forester has mentioned that 'planning conflicts ofter involve not only resources like land and money, but relationships that involve personality and politics, race, ethnicity and culture, too'. (John Forster: 2000) Not material respects are related to planning system, when issues like emotions involved in, we need a language and process of emotional transformation and solution. It is significant to create a physical and mental space to negotiate between different cultures and identities, a space for telling and hearing freely, a space for understanding and meanings through multicultural conversations. However, it has two limits: one cost and time involved, the other scale and significance.

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The skill of story telling has an intimate relationship with therapeutic. In this book, Sandercock uses a whole independent chapter to emphasize the power and importance of telling stories. She expresses that 'a better understanding of the role of stories can make us more effective as planning practitioners' and 'story and story telling are at work in conflict resolution'. (P.182) Good stories can not only help to build a good logical planning system, but also persuade others when conflicts and disagreements coming out. Besides, planners have the duty to collect and hear voice from marginal minorities, designing meetings for them to speak out and encourage them to speak. Planners should bring more opportunities to public participation, especially for minorities. A good story teller could absorb voices of public and make up them into planning system. Although scale is also one limit to story telling while power itself as the other one, good skill of telling story is necessary for planners.

The Right to the City

In Henri Lefebvre's language, the right to the city 'can only be formulated as a transformed and renewed right to urban life'. (Henri Lefebvre: 1996) In Cosmopolis II, Sandercock suggests that the express of accommodation of difference by Amin could be adopted as the right of difference, the right to the city into Lefebvre's notion. That is 'a vocabulary of rights of presence, bridging difference, getting along' (Ash Amin:2002) In this book, the core of multicultural are emphasized as two rights: the right to different (diversity) and the right to the city. Every individual should own the equal right to occupy public space and share the common. Both the majority and the minority have the right to presence and speak in political system.

David Harvey defines the right to city as 'it is a right to change ourselves by changing the cit. It is more rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization'. (David Harvey: 2008) In Harvey's article, he discusses capitalism as reproduced through the production of urban space and the changes of the cities result from these capitalism shifts. If we believe that the transformative planning system will contribute to the future of cosmopolis, the right to the city might be one of the most significant issues related to the renew of urban space. The neglect of minorities (here especially immigrants and the lower class) results in isolation and some darker aspects like dispossessions and exclusion. The mainstream which always refers to the white-male in western countries takes over the direction of planning. Most of the budgets is prioritized over the need of few big financiers and investors.

John Forester, 2000, P.245

Henri Lefebvre. 1996. The right to the city. Writings on Cities. E. Kofman and E. Lebas: 147-159.

David Harvey. (2008). "The right to the city." New Left Review 53(september october): 23-40.

Ash Amin. 2006


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