Cancelini_end of Century

anthropology, urban studies, imaginarios
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  Urban cultures at the end of the century the anthropological perspective N6stor Garcia Canclini As the twentieth century draws to a close, the field of anthropology seems ready to embrace the whole century. Several decades ago it moved beyond the study of non-European and non-Western rural populations, which had been anthropology’s speciality when it started out as a discipline. Anthropologists have conducted investigations on metropolises and have been concerned with all types of societies complex, traditional, modem, cities and transnational networks. Postmodern re- searchers are even showing that the anthropological approach offers a special way of revealing the forms of multiculturalism which proliferate under globaliz- ation. To some degree, other disciplines such as demo- graphy and economics also strive to be omnipresent and omniscient in their quest to explain the entire universe by means of a single para- digm. But anthropology of an urban theory. There are three reasons why I have chosen a different approach. First, such an encyclopedic task, which would entail much more space than the present article allows, has already been carried out by various authors over the past decades Eames and Goode, 1973; Han- nerz, 1992; Kenny and Kertzer, 1983; Signor- elli, 1996; Southall, 1973) and by journals in a number of languages, for example, Ethnologie francaise 1982; a ricerca .folklorica 1989; NCstor Garcia Canclini is an anthropol- ogist and head of the programme of stud- ies in urban culture at the Universidad Aut6noma Metropolitana POB 55-536, 09340 Mexico, D.F.). Dr Garcia Canclini has published twenty books on cultural studies, globalization and the urban imagination. He has been a Professor at the Universities of Stanford, Austin, Barcelona, Buenos Aires and S o Paulo. His book, Hybrid Cultures 1995), was chosen by the Latin American Associ- ation to receive the first Ibero-American Book Award for the best book about Latin America. claims in addition to focus on the macro- and the micro-social and to explain, at the same time, how qualitative and quantitative knowl- edge is linked. The city is one area in which this all-inclusive approach turns out to be parti- cularly problematic. shall avoid in this text one notable way of assessing the work done by urban anthropol- ogists, which is to review the contributions that anthropology has made during its history to the knowledge of specific cities and the elaboration several issues of Urban Life; Urban Anthropology 1991; and the International Social Science Journal 1996. According to the assessment made by Kemper and Kratct in Urban Anthropology which deals almost exclusively with research in the United States, at the beginning of the decade there were 885 urban anthropologists, in- cluding archeologists, lin- guists and physical anthro- pologists. The same report indicates, however, that social anthropologists account for 70 per cent of the researchers Kemper and Kratct, 1991). That is one reason why the present analysis will be confined to this subdiscipline. Secondly, we have to acknowledge that while numerous studies on cities are to be found in the anthropological literature since the nine- teenth century, anthropologists who talk about cities are often actually referring to something else. Although they deal with cities such as ISSJ 15311997 NESCO 1997. Published by Blackwell Publishers, 108 Cowley Road. Oxford OX4 IJF, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148 USA.  346 N&or Garcia Canclini Luanshya, Ibadan, MCrida or SBo Paulo, the main purpose of many studies is to investigate cultural contacts in a colonial situation or migratory flows during periods of industrializ- ation, working conditions and patterns of con- sumption, or what traditions remain under con- ditions of contemporary expansion. Apart from the early work of the Chicago School in the 1920s, when cities became a parti- cular focus of investigation for sociologists and anthropologists, the latter used them only occasionally as the core of their social analysis. It was only in the last three decades that urbanism became a legitimate field of research for anthropologists, with all that this implies: leading researchers have specialized in the field, full recognition has been given in graduate and postgraduate curricula, and funding has been provided for fieldwork, scientific meetings and specialized journals Kemper and Kratct, 1991). The third reason for not using a historical review to show how anthropology today is deal- ing with cities is that the challenges of this research have become radically different in the epoch of conurbanization, globalization and transnational integration. What is meant today by city and anthropology is very different from what was understood by Robert Redfield, the Chicago and Manchester Schools and even more recent anthropologists. We need simply recall how much the significance and size of cities has changed since 1900: at that time only 4 per cent of the world’s population lived in cities; now half its population has become urbanized Gmelch-Zenner, 1996, p. 188). In certain peri- pheral regions, such as Latin America, which were the preferred subject of earlier anthro- pology, 70 per cent of the population lives in urban conglomerations. Because urban expan- sion is due in great part to the influx of rural and indigenous populations, these social groups which have traditionally been studied by anthro- pologists are now found in large cities. It is here that their traditions are passed on and transformed and that the more complex exchanges arising from multi-ethnicity and multiculturalism evolve. Old ideas in new contexts It is not by chance that a large number of urban anthropological studies focus on migrants and the so-called marginal sectors. In attempting to study these changes in the habitual targets of anthropological research, it became clear that modem cities were presenting new challenges to the anthropological concepts and methodologies that had been developed to study small, indigen- ous and rural communities. It has to be acknowledged that the ethnographic approach has contributed srcinal qualitative work on inter-ethnic and intercultural relations, which in other fields have been subordinated to a macro- social view of things. Nevertheless, the approaches used by anthropologists for a long time inhibited the construction of an urban anthropology involving a comprehensive picture of the meaning of urban life. As Durham 1986, p. 13) noted, they were engaging not so much in urban anthropology as in anthropology in the city. As a result, the city becomes more a locus of research than its object. In any event, this is a difficult matter to resolve both in anthro- pology and in other fields. How is it possible to embrace in a single concept urban culture all the variety of city life? Is there really a unified and distinct phenomenon of urban space, especially in such complex and heterogeneous agglomerations as New York, Beijing or Mex- ico City, or would it be preferable to speak of various types of cultures within the city? If so, should the categories be based on social class, organization of space, or other criteria? At the same time, besides reshaping the model of anthropology, urban issues have demonstrated the resourcefulness of anthropo- logical conceptual tools and methodologies in dealing with key aspects of modern cities which are of interest to all the social sciences. I shall discuss three of these: multicultural heterogen- eity, intercultural and social segregation, and de-urbanization. Sociocultural heterogeneity or diversity, which has always been a basic theme in anthro- pology, is today one of the most destabilizing elements for the classical model offered by urban theory. The difficulty of defining what is meant by city derives in part from the variety of forms cities have taken throughout history industrial, administrative, political capitals, ser- vice cities, ports and tourist cities); but this complexity is even greater in the major metro- polises which cannot even be reduced to such monofunctional characterizations. Some theor- UNESCO 997  Urban cultures at the end of the century 347 ists maintain that the parallel existence of many different functions and activities is, in fact, the defining feature of the present urban structure Castells, 1995; Signorelli, 1996). Moreover, this flexibility in performing various functions is expanding as the delocalization of production weakens the historic ties between certain cities and particular types of production. Lancashire is no longer an international synonym for the textile industry; Sheffield and Pittsburgh are no longer synonymous with steel. Manufactured goods and the most advanced electronic equip- ment can be produced just as well in the inter- national cities of the first world as in the cities of Brazil, Mexico and South-East Asia Castells, 1974; Hall, 1996; Sassen, 1991). The diversity of a city is usually a result of distinct stages in its development. Milan, Mexico and Paris all provide parallel evidence at least of the following periods: a) historical, whose monuments make them cities of artistic and touristic interest; b) industrial, the develop- ment of which restructured in a specific way in each case the use of land; and c) a recent transnational and post-industrial architecture financial and telecommunications industries) which has restructured the appropriation of space, movement in the city and urban habits, and the incorporation of these cities into supra- national networks. At the present time, the existence side by side of these different periods gives rise to a multi-temporal heterogeneity where processes of hybridization, conflicts and intense intercultural exchanges occur Garcia Canclini, 1995a, 1995b). Adding to the heterogeneity and hybridiz- ation which stem from the contiguity of build- ings and spatial organization of different histori- cal periods, is the cohabitation of immigrants from different regions of the same country and from other countries. These immigrants bring to the great cities languages, behaviour patterns and spatial structures from different cultures. The same process can be observed in metropoli- tan and peripheral countries, cancelling out to some extent the differences noted in an earlier period by evolutionists between cities in developed and underdeveloped regions. The close proximity of native-born com- munities with many others has brought about an explosion of the traditional urban idiosyn- crasies in Lima as much as in New York, Buenos Aires or Berlin. The sudden, and at times violent, confrontation between the present and the past, between social scientists and exotic peoples, allows us to assert that urban anthropology has been decisive in fully liberat- ing anthropologists from the sense of belonging to a universe divorced from the purposes of their study; it has also helped some researchers feel less guilty about interfering in foreign cul- tures and has discouraged evolutionist subter- fuges designed to restore that distance by means of a ‘learned’ stance. While urban anthropol- ogists may not be from the same ethnic group or from the same class or national background as their subjects, they are exposed to the same or similar socio-spatial, advertising and tele- vision influences. While macro-social planning, the stan- dardization of buildings and roads, and in gen- eral the unified development of the capitalist market have tended to turn cities into mech- anisms of homogenization, these three factors have not prevented the forces of diversity from emerging and expanding. But the ‘explosion’ of differences is not just a concrete process; it is also an urban ideology. Since the 1970s, the postmodern trends having an impact on anthro- pology and urbanism have promoted difference, multiplicity and decentralization as the con- ditions of urban democracy. Nevertheless, these trends must be assessed differently in the metro- politan and peripheral countries. Such a distinc- tion is essential above all for political and econ- omic reasons. We cannot equate the growth of self-management and plurality after a phase of planning designed to regulate urban growth and satisfy basic needs as in nearly all European cities) with the chaotic growth of survival efforts based on scarcity, erratic expansion and predatory use of land, water and air which are the norm in Asia, Africa and Latin America). A second distinction concerns scale. For countries which entered the twentieth century with low mortality rates and with planned and democratically governed cities, the detours, shifts and loss of power by all-embracing insti- tutions may be seen as part of the logic of decentralization. In contrast, in cities like Caracas, Lima or Sgo Paulo, dispersal arising from the population explosion, popular or speculative invasion of the land, and far from democratic means of representing and adminis- UNESCO 997  348 Nestor Garcia Canclini Shanghai street scene. Frangois Pedcosrnos trating urban spaces may be perceived as adding to a disorder which is always on the verge of exploding. In the first case, the weakening of planned institutions may be a liberating step forward. In the majority of cities in the peripheral countries, meanwhile, the ideology of decentralization often serves only to reproduce ungovernable agglomerations, thus ‘encouraging’ at times the perpetuation of an authoritarian and centralized government reluctant to let the people vote or make decisions. Research into social movements generally considers that the destructuring of cit- ies stimulates the formation of local, youth, or ecological groups which try to create alterna- tives to the hegemonic dis)order. Other disci- plines equate decentralization with a heighten- ing of chaos, the spread of gangs, urban terror and sexual aggression, or see it simply as an opportunity for business interests and even neighbourhood groups to appropriate public spaces and discriminate against the rest. As pointed out by Holston and Appadurai 1996, p. 252 , the popular exercise of democracy can therefore produce anti-democratic results. It is clear that in many African, Asian and Latin American cities a weakened regulatory authority does not increase freedom but rather leads to insecurity and injustice. In those coun- tries, postmodernism usually means exasper- ation with the contradictions of modernity: the disappearance of what little urbanization had been achieved, the emptiness of public affairs and the private search for alternatives not to a different kind of city but to urban life, which is seen as a ‘stressful’ tumult. The abandonment of unified public policies, combined with an increase in unemployment and violence, gives rise, as shown in the studies by Mike Davis on Los Angeles and by Teresa P.R. Caldeira on Siio Paulo, to spatial segregation: those in a position to do so shut themselves away in forti- fied enclaves. Instead of working with conflicts arising from interculturality, there has been a separation of groups by means of walls, fences and electronic security systems. Recent anthro- UNESCO 1997
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