A Companion to Urban Anthropology presents a collection oforiginal essays from international scholars on key issues in urbananthropology and broader cross-disciplinary urban studies. * Features newly commissioned essays from 35 leadinginternational scholars in urban and global studies * Includes essays in classic areas of concern to urbananthropologists such as built structures and urban planning,community, security, markets, and race * Covers emergent areas in the field including:21st-century cities borders, citizenship, sustainability, and urbansexualities
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Notes on Contributors
What Are the Essays About?
In Search of Meta-Knowledge in Urban Anthropology: Dissonant and Generative Connections
PART I: Foundational Concepts: Affirmed and Contested
CHAPTER 1: Spatialities: The Rebirth of Urban Anthropology through Studies of Urban Space
History and Theoretical Background
The Spatial Turn
CHAPTER 2: Flows
Worlds in Flux
Commodity Circuits: Goods in Movement
Flows of Ideas: Languages, Religions, and the City as Flow
CHAPTER 3: Community
Community in the Anthropological Landscape
The Elusive Community
Community as Governable Space
The Obscure Object of Desire?
CHAPTER 4: Citizenship
Political Action and Citizenship Practice in Urban Spaces
The Urban as an Object of Citizenship Action as Well as Its Site
PART II: Materializations and Their Imaginaries
CHAPTER 5: Built Structures and Planning
Premodern Cities: Variations on a Theme of the Cosmos, Market, and Religious/Political Authority
The Colonial City
The Postmodern City
CHAPTER 6: Borders: Cities, Boundaries, and Frontiers
State Borders: Sites, Symbols, Institutions, and Practices
Bordering and Bordered Cities
CHAPTER 7: Markets
The Political and Cultural Economy of Markets
Exchange Is Not the Same As Markets
Market Struggles and the Structuring of Social Space
Gender, Race, Ethnicity in the Market
Brokerage, Mediation, Networks
Modernity and Tactics of Resistance: The Knowledge of the Streets
How and Why Traders Perform
Market Spaces of Formality–Informality: False Dualisms
Brave New Markets
CHAPTER 8: Cars and Transport: The Car-Made City
The Struggle for Sustainable Mobility Systems
PART III: Dividing Processes, Bases of Solidarity
CHAPTER 9: Class
Class: The Urban Commons and the Empty Sign of “The Middle Class” in the Twenty-First Century
The “Working Class” as a Project of the Urban Commons
Urban Crisis, Urban Rebellion
China and the New Urbanization
CHAPTER 10: Gender
“The Personal Is Political” and the City
Gender in Urban Anthropology from the 1950s–1980s
Globalization, Gender and Cities
Global Differences: Women in the North, Women in the South
CHAPTER 11: Sexualities
The Sexualities of Cities
Cities of Vice
In Bed with Power
The Urbanity of Sex
CHAPTER 12: Race
CHAPTER 13: Extralegality
The Limits of “Legality”: Legal, Illegal, Extra-Legal
PART IV: Abstractions of Consequence
CHAPTER 14: Global Systems and Globalization
The Urban in Global Historical Perspective
Anthropology of the Global and of the City: Globalization or Global Systems?
What Are the Tendencies of Urbanization in Periods of Globalization?
Beyond Cities as Sites of Consumption: Ethnic and Class Fragmentation Under Hegemonic Decline
Third-World Cities: Cosmopolitan Canopies, Street Children, and Peripheral Impoverishment
CHAPTER 15: Governance: Beyond the Neoliberal City
A Brief History of Urban Neoliberalism
Theorizing the Neoliberal City
The Anthropology of Contemporary Urban Governance
CHAPTER 16: Policing and Security
The Contradiction at the Heart of Policing
Policing, Security, and Social Power: Four Perspectives
Prefatory Comments on Studying Police
The History of Modern Cities and Police in the West
Urban Privatization and Policing
Innovations in Policing
Cities, Policing, and Crime: A Postcolonial Example
Security, Borders, and Migration
What Is Missing? Elite Crime
Conclusions: Inequality and Justice
CHAPTER 17: Transnationality: Transnationality and the City
Transnationality and Urban Studies
Migration and Urban Transnationalities
A Comparative Perspective of the Varying Transnationality of Cities
CHAPTER 18: Cosmopolitanism: Cosmopolitan Cities and the Dialectics of Living Together with Difference
Introduction: Liberation Square
Breaching the Greek City Walls: From Polis to Metropolis
“Street” Cosmopolitanism: Merchants and Traders
Social Networks and Claims to Moral Citizenship
The Aesthetics and Cultural Politics of Cosmopolitanism
PART V: Experiencing/Knowing the City in Everyday Life
CHAPTER 19: Practices of Sociality
CHAPTER 20: Memory and Narrative
Sites of Memory
Narrating the Past
The Past of the
Activist Lives in Buenos Aires
The Past as a Resource
Some Cautionary Notes
CHAPTER 21: Religion
The Sacred and the City
Sacred Signs and Marked Spaces in the City
From Ethnics to Ethics: The City and the Quest for Universality
PART VI: Nature and the City
CHAPTER 22: Nature
Nature in Urban Lives and Deaths
The Material Agency of Nature
Nature as a System of Signs
Nature at Every Turn
CHAPTER 23: Food and Farming
Food Provisioning: A Multi-Scalar Phenomenon, and a Challenge for Urban Anthropology
Four Approaches to Food Provisioning by Urban Anthropologists
Urban Agriculture: How 800 Million–1 Billion People Get By
CHAPTER 24: Pollution
Dirt, Difference, and Disease
Environmental Justice and Urban Political Ecology
Slum Tours in Mazatlán, Mexico
Environmentalism in Kingston, Jamaica
Additional suggestions for reading
CHAPTER 25: Resilience
Resilience: The Analytical Frame
PART VII: Challenging the Present, Anticipating Urban Futures
CHAPTER 26: The Commons
Practices of Urban Commoning
Commoning Practices of Cityzenship
Conclusion: On the Common of the Commons
CHAPTER 27: Social Movements
The Return of Social Movements: But Where Did They Go?
The Challenge of Contemporary Movements
A Brief Genealogy
Towards an Anthropology of Social Movements
CHAPTER 28: Futures: Lifeform, Livelihood, and Lifeway
Introduction: Here Comes – the Anthropocene?
Tilting Toward the Urban
An Urbanizing Planet
Livelihoods and Privatized Ecologies
The Rural/Urban Divide: the Country and the City
Urban Political Ecology and Urban Futures
Lifeways and the “Natural City”: Cosmological Perspectives
From the Stars to the Street
End User License Agreement
Table 25.1 Periods of extreme shocks on the food and water security of Constantinople.
Table 25.2 Drivers for increased numbers of urban food gardens in Sweden, Germany, France, and Britain.
Table 25.3 Carriers of social-ecological memory in allotment gardens, Stockholm. Repositories of experiences, ecological knowledge, and garden practices.
Table 25.4 Specific rights to allotment gardens in Stockholm by user status. Allotment gardens are held in the form of proprietorship in which land is leased on 25-year contracts. Property rights are independent of one another and can be associated with specific user statuses according to Schlager and Ostrom (1992). Rights are scaled by user position as shown, and include rights of
withdrawal from use, management
exclusion of others
(the right to sell or lease).
Figure 14.1 Class and ethnic composition of contemporary globalization.
Figure 14.2 Continuum of ethnic/national integration.
Figure 14.3 The logics of ethnic vs. national integration.
Figure 25.1 Barnängen Allotment Garden in Stockholm, Sweden. Source: Stephan Barthel.
Figure 25.2 Zones of food production in Constantinople. Source: Ljungkvist
. (2010). Map adapted from Koder (1995).
Figure 25.3 Allotment gardening response to crises in Britain, 1886–1967. Source: Barthel, Parker, and Ernstson (Forthcoming).
, DOI: 10.1177/0042098012472744
Figure 25.4 “Dig for Victory”: Drawing from the British “Every man a gardener” campaign during World War II. Source: The National Archives, INF 3/95.
Figure 25.5 Allotment areas and areas covered by pollination in the southern part of Stockholm city. Allotment gardens are shown as solid black areas, and the circles centered on such gardens illustrate the areas that are covered by pollination. Source: Colding
, 35: 237–244.
Figure 26.1 Green Tide against cuts in public education. Source: Marea Verde Aragon, CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).
Figure 26.2 Urban encampment in Zaragoza during May 2011. Source: Acampada Zaragoza, CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).
Figure 26.3 Squatted Social Center in Barcelona. Source: “Okupa y Resiste” by Toniher (own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en) via Wikimedia Commons.
Figure 26.4 Teatro Valle Occupato in Rome. Source: Teatro Valle Occupato, CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en_US).
Table of Contents
The Blackwell Companions to Anthropology offers a series of comprehensive syntheses of the traditional subdisciplines, primary subjects, and geographic areas of inquiry for the field. Taken together, the series represents both a contemporary survey of anthropology and a cutting-edge guide to the emerging research and intellectual trends in the field as a whole.
A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology
, edited by Alessandro Duranti
A Companion to the Anthropology of Politics
, edited by David Nugent and Joan Vincent
A Companion to the Anthropology of American Indians
, edited by Thomas Biolsi
A Companion to Psychological Anthropology
, edited by Conerly Casey and Robert B. Edgerton
A Companion to the Anthropology of Japan
, edited by Jennifer Robertson
A Companion to Latin American Anthropology
, edited by Deborah Poole
A Companion to Biological Anthropology
, edited by Clark Larsen (hardback only)
A Companion to the Anthropology of India
, edited by Isabelle Clark-Decès
A Companion to Medical Anthropology
, edited by Merrill Singer and Pamela I. Erickson
A Companion to Cognitive Anthropology
, edited by David B. Kronenfeld, Giovanni Bennardo, Victor de Munck, and Michael D. Fischer
A Companion to Cultural Resource Management
, edited by Thomas King
A Companion to the Anthropology of Education
, edited by Bradley A.U. Levinson and Mica Pollack
A Companion to the Anthropology of the Body and Embodiment
, edited by Frances E. Mascia-Lees
A Companion to Paleopathology
, edited by Anne L. Grauer
A Companion to Folklore
, edited by Regina F. Bendix and Galit Hasan-Rokem
A Companion to Forensic Anthropology
, edited by Dennis Dirkmaat
A Companion to the Anthropology of Europe
, edited by Ullrich Kockel, Máiréad Nic Craith, and Jonas Frykman
A Companion to Border Studies
, edited by Thomas M. Wilson and Hastings Donnan
A Companion to Rock Art
, edited by Jo McDonald and Peter Veth
A Companion to Moral Anthropology
, edited by Didier Fassin
A Companion to Gender Prehistory
, edited by Diane Bolger
A Companion to Organizational Anthropology
, edited by D. Douglas Caulkins and Ann T. Jordan
A Companion to Paleoanthropology
, edited by David R. Begun
A Companion to Chinese Archaeology
, edited by Anne P. Underhill
A Companion to the Anthropology of Religion
, edited by Janice Boddy and Michael Lambek
A Companion to Urban Anthropology
, edited by Donald M. Nonini
A Companion to Oral History
, edited by Mark Tebeau
A Companion to Dental Anthropology
, edited by Joel D. Irish and G. Richard Scott
This edition first published 2014
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Cover image: From top: View from Mori Tower, Tokyo, Japan © Hemis/Alamy; St Pancras International station, London © Arterra Picture Library/Alamy; Suburb of Kigali, Rwanda, Central Africa © Patrick Batchelder/Alamy
Cover design by RBDA
In the course of completing this book, I have incurred many debts, personal and professional. It is impossible to thank everyone who has contributed to bringing this book to fruition, but certain people have played a major role in the process. First, there are the contributors of the 28 concept essays in this book who have worked brilliantly to reconceptualize an urban anthropology for the twenty-first century, as articulated in the original scholarship manifested here. Reading their work has been an extraordinary education, both pleasurable and exciting. I will always be thankful for the privilege. I am confident that the readers will enjoy and learn much from their work as well.
I have other debts to acknowledge. In late 2008 at the American Anthropological Association's Annual Meeting, Wiley Blackwell's Rosalie Robertson, Senior Commissioning Editor, listened very thoughtfully and then with increasing enthusiasm as I proposed the fundamental framework for this book, and since then has been supportive every step of the way, with patience, great good humor, and faith in the project. Jen Bray, Project Editor in Anthropology for Wiley Blackwell in Boston, also provided assistance and encouragement at a time when it was very much needed. In September 2012, when I wondered whether or not a work involving 28 authors on a vast array of topics in urban anthropology would ever see the light of day, Rosalie and Jen came to my aid with suggestions that were invaluable, and gave me the boost that pushed me to find the last few contributors, complete the editing process, and present the manuscript to Wiley Blackwell in July 2013. The encouragement of both was crucial. I also wish to thank Ben Thatcher, Project Editor for the Social Sciences in Wiley Blackwell's Oxford office, Sarah Dancy and Tessa Hanford for helping with the final steps toward publishing the book, and Allison Kostka, Wiley Blackwell's Senior Editorial Assistant, who helped me in numerous ways in an earlier stage of the work.
Malena Rousseau, Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has played an invaluable role, acting as an assistant editor in the later stages of the editing process. I could not have acted as efficiently, with as much intellectual insight, or in as good spirits, without her assistance and enthusiasm.
Finally, I would be remiss not to acknowledge Sandy Smith-Nonini. Her magnificent patience and indulgence toward my protracted “present absence” were often tested as I worked to bring this book to fruition in my study. I am grateful beyond words for her efforts in extracting me from it while reminding me of why the work mattered – up to a point! Her presence and understanding have made it all worthwhile.
Durham, North Carolina
Stephan Barthel is an affiliated researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre and at the Department of History at Stockholm University. He does research on environmental issues in metropolitan landscapes. Recent publications include “The potential of ‘Urban Green Commons’ in the resilience building of cities,” Ecological Economics, 86, 156–166 (with J. Colding, 2013), “Food and green space in cities: A resilience lens on gardens and urban environmental movements,” Urban Studies, (with J. Parker and H. Ernstson, 2013), and “Civic greening and environmental learning in public-access community gardens in Berlin,” Landscape and Urban Planning, 109, 18–30 (with P. Bendt and J. Colding, 2013).
Julian Brash is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Montclair State University, and the author of Bloomberg's New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City (2011). His research focuses on the role imaginaries, identities, and affect play in urban development, governance, and political economy.
Maribel Casas-Cortés is a cultural anthropologist who has written on precarity, feminist movements, and migration, and is currently a post-doctoral researcher under an NSF fellowship on European borders.
John Clarke is Professor of Social Policy at the Open University, UK. His most recent book (with Janet Newman) is Publics, Politics and Power (2009) and he is the co-author of Disputing Citizenship (with Kathy Coll, Evelina Dagnino, and Catherine Neveu) to be published 2014.
Sebastian Cobarrubias is an economic geographer who has written on social movements and the politics of mapping. He is currently Assistant Professor at the Global Studies Department of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.
Hilary Cunningham (Scharper) is a novelist and Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Toronto. Her publications and research explore boundary making as a multifaceted encounter with “nature.” She is author of “Bordering on the Environmental: Permeabilities, Ecology and Geopolitical Boundaries” in The Blackwell Companion to BorderStudies (2012).
Lindsay DuBois is an anthropologist teaching at Dalhousie University. She conducts research on the relationship between culture, history, and political economy in Argentina. This work includes The Politics of the Past in an Argentine Working Class Neighbourhood (2005), about the lasting impact of repression and neoliberal restructuring on everyday life. She has worked with activist pensioners in Buenos Aires and is currently developing research on Argentine social welfare policies around child poverty.
Eveline Dürr is a Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. She received her Ph.D. and venia legendi (Habilitation) from the University of Freiburg, Germany and was an Associate Professor at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand. She conducted fieldwork in Mexico, the United States, New Zealand, and Germany. Her research projects include perceptions of the environment, garbage, slum tourism, ecotourism and urban spatiality, and the historical trajectories that have formed such present conditions.
Nina Glick Schiller is Emeritus Professor at the University of New Hampshire and Manchester University and Founding Director of the Research Institute for Cosmopolitan Cultures, Manchester. Among her recent publications are Migration, Development, and Transnationalization (2010), Locating Migration: Rescaling Cities and Migrants (2011), Cosmopolitan Sociability (2011), and Beyond Methodological Nationalism: Research Methodologies for Cross-Border Studies (2012).
Jonathan Friedman is Directeur d'études at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at University of California, San Diego. He has done research on the anthropology of global systems and processes, on Marxist theory in anthropology, the study of crises, social and cultural movements as products of global systemic crisis. He has conducted research on Southeast Asia, Hawaii, Europe, and Central Africa.
Thomas Blom Hansen is the Reliance-Dhirubhai Ambani Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies at Stanford University. He is the author of The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India (1999), Wages of Violence: Naming and Identity in Postcolonial Bombay (2001), and Melancholia of Freedom: Social Life in an Indian Township in South Africa (2012).
Josiah McC. Heyman is Professor of Anthropology and Chair of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Texas, El Paso. He focuses on borders, states, power, and engaged social sciences. He has participated in community initiatives addressing public policies and human rights at the US–Mexico border.
Rivke Jaffe is an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Urban Studies at the University of Amsterdam. She previously held teaching and research positions at Leiden University, the University of the West Indies, and the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV). Her research focuses primarily on intersections of the urban and the political, specifically on the spatialization of power, difference, and inequality within cities. Her current research, in Jamaica, studies the public–private security assemblages through which urban populations and spaces are governed.
Don Kalb is Professor of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Central European University, Budapest, and Senior Researcher at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. He specializes in anthropological political economy, in particular questions of class and the politics of globalization. He is the founding Editor of Focaal – Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology. His books include Expanding Class (1997), Critical Junctions (ed. 2005), Headlines of Nation, Subtexts of Class: Working Class Populism and the Return of the Repressed in Neoliberal Europe (ed. 2011).
Denise Lawrence-Zúñiga, Professor of Architecture at Cal Poly Pomona's College of Environmental Design, is a sociocultural anthropologist whose research focuses on the mutually reinforcing relations people establish with the built environment and natural landscapes. Her research on changes in house form in Portugal and, more recently, on southern California preservationist homeowners focuses on the role of materiality in constructing identity and lifestyles, while linking local behaviors to broader social and design movements.
Sian Lazar is Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. She is the author of El Alto, Rebel City: Self and Citizenship in Andean Bolivia (2008) and editor of The Anthropology of Citizenship: A Reader (2013). She works on citizenship and collective politics and her current research focuses on public-sector trade unionists in Argentina.
Setha M. Low is Professor of Anthropology, Geography, Critical Psychology and Women's Studies, and Director of the Public Space Research Group at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Recent books include: Politics of Public Space (2005), Rethinking Urban Parks: Public Space and Cultural Diversity (2005), and Behind the Gates: Life, Security, and the Pursuit of Happiness in Fortress America (2004). Her current research is on private governance in New York City and she is completing Spatializing Culture: An Anthropological Theory of Space and Place.
Catherine Lutz is the Thomas J. Watson, Jr. Family Chair of Anthropology and International Studies at Brown University. Her books include Unnatural Emotions (1988), Reading National Geographic (1993), Homefront: A Military City and the American 20th Century (2002), The Bases of Empire (2009), Carjacked (2009), and Breaking Ranks (2010). She is the recipient of numerous awards for her work on a range of issues from the US military and its basing system to car cultures and the car economy.
José Guilherme Cantor Magnani is Doctor of Human Sciences, University of São Paulo and Full Professor at the Anthropology Department of the same university; author of Festa no Pedaço (1984) and Da Periferia ao Centro (2012); co-editor of Na Metrópole: textos de Antropologia Urbana (2008). He is Coordinator of the Center of Urban Anthropology, at the University of São Paulo .
Jeff Maskovsky teaches urban studies at Queens College, and anthropology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. His research and writing focus on urban poverty, grassroots activism, and political economic change in the United States.
Gary W. McDonogh is Professor in Growth and Structure of Cities at Bryn Mawr College. Having worked extensively in Barcelona (Good Families of Barcelona 1986), the American South (Black and Catholic in Savannah 1992), and Hong Kong (Global Hong Kong 2005), he is currently completing a collaborative project with Cindy Wong on global Chinatowns.
Donald M. Nonini is Professor of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has engaged in research on political economy and citizenship among ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia, on US local politics, and recently on moral logics among local food and farming activists in the United States. His most recent book, “Getting by” among Chinese in Malaysia: An Historical Ethnography of Class and State Formation, will be published by Cornell University Press in 2014.
Michal Osterweil teaches in the Curriculum in Global Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she also received her Ph.D. in anthropology. She is an active member of the UNC Chapel Hill Social Movements Working Group, as well as various transnational collaborations. She is a founding member of Turbulence, a journal of social movements and networks, and has authored numerous articles on the global justice movement and social movements, focusing on their knowledge practices.
Deborah Pellow, Professor of Anthropology in The Maxwell School at Syracuse University, is an Africanist whose work is grounded in the roles and relationships enacted by individuals in the urban arena and plural society, under conditions of social change. Her current research focuses on the Dagomba of northern Ghana to explore the phenomenon of the educated elite who live in the urban south and influence their uneducated northern followers regarding Dagomba power structures.
John Pickles is an economic geographer working on post-socialist Europe, global production networks, borders, and mapping. He is the Earl N. Phillips Distinguished Professor of International Studies in the Department of Geography at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Robert Rotenberg is Vincent de Paul Professor of Anthropology at DePaul University in Chicago. His publications include “On the Sublime in Nature in Cities.” In Peggy Barlett (ed.), Urban Place: Reconnections with the Natural World (2005), and “Landscape Architecture and Cultural Anthropology.” Le:Notre: Consortium of European Schools of Landscape Architecture. Neighboring Disciplines Series (2009).
Stephen Bede Scharper is Associate Professor with the School of the Environment and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. He is co-editor of The Natural City: Re-envisioning the Built Environment (2012) and author of For Earth's Sake: Toward a Compassionate Ecology (2013).
Linda J. Seligmann is Professor of Anthropology at George Mason University. Her publications include Peruvian Street Lives: Culture, Power and Economy among Market Women of Cuzco (2004), an edited volume, Women Traders in Cross-Cultural Perspective: Mediating Identities, Marketing Wars (2001), and Between Reform and Revolution: Political Struggles in the Peruvian Andes, 1969–91 (1995).
Alan Smart is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Calgary. He has conducted research in Hong Kong, China, and Canada. He is the author of The Shek Kip Mei Myth: Squatters, Fires and Colonial Rule in Hong Kong, 1950–1963 (2006), and numerous articles.
Ida Susser, Professor of Anthropology at Hunter College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York, recently published an updated edition of Norman Street: Poverty and Politics in an Urban Neighborhood (2012) and, among other works, editored or co-edited The Castells Reader on Cities and Social Theory (2002), Wounded Cities (2003), and Cultural Diversity In the United States: A Critical Reader (2001).
Pnina Werbner is Professor Emerita of Anthropology, Keele University. She is the author of The Manchester Migration Trilogy: The Migration Process(1990/2002), Imagined Diasporas (2002), and Pilgrims of Love (2003); and editor of Anthropology and the New Cosmopolitanism (2008), and The Political Aesthetics of Global Protest: The Arab Spring Uprisings and Beyond (2013).
Brett Williams is Professor of Anthropology at American University. She has conducted research in Washington, DC for the last 25 years. She is the author of John Henry (1983), Upscaling Downtown (1988), and Debt for Sale (2005), and many articles on gentrification and displacement, health inequalities, environmental justice, and credit and debt.
Ara Wilson is Associate Professor of Women's Studies and Cultural Anthropology at Duke University where she directed the program in the study of sexualities from 2006–2012. The author of a 2004 ethnography, The Intimate Economies of Bangkok: Tomboys, Tycoons, and Avon Ladies in the Global City, she is completing a book manuscript, “Sexual Latitudes: The Erotic Life of Globalization,” and is conducting research on medical tourism to Bangkok and Singapore.
Thomas M. Wilson is Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the Department of Anthropology of Binghamton University, State University of New York. He is a co-founder of the Centre for International Borders Research at the Queen's University of Belfast, where he is an Honorary Professor in the School of Sociology. He has done ethnographic research in the borderlands of Ireland, the United Kingdom, Hungary, and Canada, and is the co-editor of Wiley-Blackwell's Companion to Border Studies (2012).
Filippo M. Zerilli is Associate Professor at the University of Cagliari. His research interests include the history of anthropology, postsocialism, ethnography of law and rights. His publications include Il lato oscuro dell'etnologia (1998) and La ricerca antropologica in Romania (ed., 2003).
Donald M. Nonini
It is customary to begin any introduction to a major reader in cultural anthropology with a required ritual genuflection in the direction of the importance of ethnography. In order to observe good form, I invite the reader to envision my making that bow of deep respect and deference: now. But then I must go on to immediately remind you that ethnography is not so much a solution to the theoretical questions posed by anthropology – whether these are connected to globalization, identity, social interactions, or whatever – as it is a critical tool and a set of methodologies which must be problematized and reformulated even as we put it to work.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the anthropology of cities and in urban ethnography. One cannot productively just “hang out” in large cities, as if the city, or even a “neighborhood,” were an amplified replication of Malinowski's Trobriand village, and expect to do theoretically meaningful and ethically engaged research on the lives of urban people, their cultural practices, or social relationships. Before one can even begin an ethnographic research project in an urban area, one must confront frankly positional and reflexive issues: where does the anthropologist stand and rest, and how does she conceive of her relationship to those she seeks to study? Are they, for example, nearby or citywide; do they have a publicly enunciable identity and are thus readily located, or are they stigmatized by the majority and spatially marginalized in fugitive spaces; can they be contacted readily or is their very location and willingness to be contacted the first order of concern; are they residing in relatively stable ways in the city, or are they in constant motion between one city and another, perhaps thousands of miles away and across state borders?
Much of the intellectually challenging work of urban anthropology is to incorporate aspects of critically important social and cultural processes into the research design, when they apply at different scales of analysis, so that it becomes productive when one successfully seeks to know the conditions under which one knows what one knows about such urban subjects – persons engaged in culturally meaningful actions in social conditions of unequal power. Questions of epistemology, reflexivity, and scale abound. For instance, I found it impossible to execute a research design on citizenship among Chinese Malaysians in a city of now 100,000 people in northwestern Malaysia where I have done ethnography from 1978–2007, until over time I became able to understand what the concept “Chinese society” meant for the city's residents and the tensions around its meanings for elites versus non-elites; to reconfigure my ethnographic methods for delimiting “it”; to ascertain my ethical stance with respect to it given that it served as the object of oppressive state policies; and from these findings, to come to a critique of the theoretical assumptions of the anthropological literature on “overseas Chinese” political organization from the 1960s onward (Nonini in press). This literature conceived of “overseas Chinese” as first and foremost quintessential “sojourners” who treated the postcolonial nation-states of Southeast Asia and their indigenous peoples as no more than the sites and objects of exploitation on their paths of capital accumulation and transnational movement into and out of the region, including their imagined “return” to China. What then was “Chinese society” in Malaysia – a spatialized “social structure” of political nomads and exploitative middleman minorities, a geographic imaginary promoted by Chinese Malaysian elites as a form of class rule, a theoretical concept grounded in a body of anthropological knowledge that I had previously accepted uncritically, or something else entirely? In what sense did “Chinese society” in Malaysia exist, when ethnic Chinese citizens were under constant attack as “disloyal” or even “criminal” by Malaysian state officials, and how under these circumstances was I to be accountable to my informants by challenging a body of anthropological knowledge complicit with such state mythologies and oppressions?
This example, with its constant tensions for the urban anthropologist between empirical referents to concepts, the cultural politics around these concepts arising from ethnographic research over time in an unstable setting grounded in social and political antagonisms, and the continuing processes of analytical abstraction and reflection, including self-reflexivity and quandaries of positionality, is by no means unique. To the contrary, I would argue that such tensions are at the heart of the ethnographic work that most urban anthropologists find themselves engaged in today. It is time for urban anthropologists to frankly acknowledge such tensions, and come to terms with them intellectually and ethically if, that is, urban anthropology is to survive as a discipline into the twenty-first century. The bringing together of these essays in the Companion represents my response to the dilemmas these tensions pose to our intellectual, ethical, and political work.
In Part I, “Foundational Concepts: Affirmed and Contested,” the essays simultaneously construct and deconstruct, and provide analytical insights into and logical critiques of the foundational concepts of spatialities, flows, community, and citizenship. Going beyond naïve positivism, one must ask questions (and ask questions about these questions) about how to incorporate space, the flows of people and goods, the social “unit of analysis” (community), and meanings of citizenship into the research design from the very beginning. Above all, the meta-theoretical message to the urban anthropologist is “Attend!” – These concepts are not foundational in the sense of being unquestioned, but instead in the sense of being building blocks which the discerning urban anthropologist simultaneously deploys and calls into question, because such strategic problematization is necessary for productive ethnographic work to proceed. For example, while the first two essays on spatialities (Chapter 1) and flows (Chapter 2) suggest the importance of both space and flows within one's research design in urban ethnography, they also insist on the importance of attending carefully to history (in the spatialities essay), and to place within the larger system constituted by flows (in the flows essay).
However, the essays on community (Chapter 3) and on citizenship (Chapter 4) remind us in complementary ways that focusing on spatialities and flows without attention to the cultural politics of their deployment by our informants and other actors can often place our analytical claims in jeopardy. What, after all does “community” mean when it is deployed to delimit specific groups of people in often quite underspecified relations of power with one another – while excluding other groups – in order to establish ontological claims for “its” legitimate existence? And how does the urban anthropologist react to the use of “community” when it shifts meanings as it crosses into and through vernacular, administrative, and academic registers for different rhetorical purposes? What does citizenship mean when its dominant and legalistic meanings of who is included and who is excluded from the political community are contested by city residents in the streets and in everyday life (e.g., in the building of residences), who are thereby reconstructing the very interface between civil society and the state? And yet, the question of how urban residents practice and embody the claims that they are citizens, and make as citizens, is at the very heart of defining the meaning of political life in the city, as the common root between “cities” and “citizen” reminds us.
Simultaneously fundamental yet unsettled/unsettling phenomena like spatiality and citizenship are manifest in the material order of cities and urban areas. In phenomenological terms, the city presents itself to the ethnographer as an assemblage of materializations linked one to another either sequentially or in nested ways: buildings, monuments, parks, people shopping, marketplaces, the trading desks of financial firms, shopping centers, people walking, automobiles, streets, boulevards, traffic jams, physical features that divide or unify (e.g., rivers and the bridges that cross them), street signs and other physical markers of borders between administrative districts, ethnic neighborhoods, and even different nation-states. The essays in Part II, “Materializations and their Imaginaries” examine these materializations as they take the form of the assemblage and reiteration of four phenomena – built structures (Chapter 5), borders (Chapter 6), markets (Chapter 7), and cars (Chapter 8) – whose presence entails the material transformation of the urban landscape.1 At the same time, associated with these phenomena and the combinations they take, are cultural meanings, imaginaries, rationalities, affects, and knowledges exhibited through and by these materializations. Buildings of all kinds, monuments, open public spaces, but also architectural styles and the layout of cities and towns, are connected to state projects of planning and design and to capitalist finance, both of which vary historically. Markets always take a physical form in contemporary cities (marketplaces, shopping malls, commodity exchanges) – although in the case of electronically mediated markets, these are often not evident to the uninitiated – and are within contemporary capitalist societies markers of “the economy” par excellence, rational behavior, and the glorification of the self-interested individual and of class privilege. Cars, while hard and at times dangerous and uncontrollable objects for humans and animals in their vicinity, also represent the apotheosis of individual freedom and personal identity associated with late modernism and industrialization – as the recent migration of the mass habitus of automobile consumption to China and other newly industrialized economies indicates, representing the most recent manifestation of the imaginary of capitalist modernity as one without physical limits on a finite planet. Borders, articulated not only by physical features (e.g., rivers, harbors, airports), but also by offices, gates, turnstiles, police and immigration officials, military convoys, passports and passes, and much more, are materializations associated with nationalism, national communities, and the modern nation-state, and with relationships between nation-states, and often operate within cities as well as between them.
The essays of Part III, “Dividing Processes, Bases of Solidarity” examine processes that simultaneously divide populations and form the bases of solidarity within the divisions these processes create, and thereby organize cities, towns, suburbs, exurbs, periurban areas, and metropolitan regions both internally and with respect to one another. These dividing/uniting processes are grounded in cultural meanings along foundational dimensions – around spaces, flows, community and citizenship – and are materialized in physical space through such phenomena as built structures, markets, and borders. Above all, class (Chapter 9), gender (Chapter 10), sexualities (chapter 11), race (Chapter 12), and state-defined legal status (Chapter 13) form the basis for relationships between groups that are simultaneously cooperative and exploitative or oppressive – between men and women, between working people and those who appropriate their surplus labor, between members of racial groups defined by essential and unequal difference, between heterosexual majorities and minority sexualities, and between those of unequal social status defined by state laws as legitimate and legal (police, respectable citizens, officials) or as illegitimate and/or illegal (criminals, certain ethnic minorities).
What is crucial for each of these forms of social division and inequality within cities are two issues. First, the lines between these opposed/complementary identities and their respective privileges are continually struggled over, negotiated, and redefined, while the struggles lead to new forms of solidarities within (and across) the groups being repositioned through these contentions. One thinks for example of the history of the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s–1990s in many US and European cities, and the new social divisions and alliances that resulted. Second, these lines of social division around different forms of inequality necessarily intersect in complex combinations that are distilled into the everyday identities of members of groups in the city, and mark the social and cultural boundaries between groups. For example, working-class gays and lesbians live under radically different conditions (and in different areas) from gays and lesbians who belong to more affluent classes. Moreover, these intersectional divisions are often manifest most clearly in spatial barriers and borders that demarcate territories within cities and urban areas associated with each group's intersecting identity position – thus materialized “ghettos,” gated communities, “downtowns,” “red light districts” (differently associated with heterosexual and non-heterosexual identities), supposedly lawless “no man's lands,” spaces of conspicuous consumption (shopping emporia, playlands), economic extravagance (casinos) and of deprivation (prisons, abandoned houses), and so on.
The essays in Part IV, “Abstractions of Consequence,” interrogate and reconceptualize the abstractions of globalization (Chapter 14), governance/neoliberalism (Chapter 15), policing and security (Chapter 16), transnationality/transnationalism (Chapter 17), and cosmopolitanism (Chapter 18), as they apply to urban anthropology. These abstractions refer to multi-scalar social and cultural processes that order cities, urban cultures and urban lives under specific conditions, but are also the subject of fundamental theoretical debates within anthropology, with different positions within these debates having specific politics, epistemologies, and even ontologies.
Is globalization an evolutionarily new set of processes associated with capitalist modernity, or has it been recurrent in the history of commercial civilizations – and what are the implications of either view for our understanding of urban processes and the ethnographic fieldwork we do? What are its connections to the dividing processes and bases of solidarity (class, gender, sexualities etc.) within urban life? What is neoliberalism – class project, dominant discourse, specific institutional assemblage, or something else – and to what extent is it the dominant, settled, form of governance under the conditions of contemporary capitalist urbanism, or one that is passing, in decline, or recombinant with other discourses and ideologies? Are transnationality and the movement and sojourning of transnational migrants into/within/through/from/between cities primarily functional aspects of how contemporary cities are organized under the conditions of neoliberal globalization (as some theorists of globalization have it), or do these play a more active causal role in the “rescaling” processes of cities within global competition between urban areas? Are policing and security fundamentally integrative processes to ensure the common peace, or are they instruments of class rule and exploitation, or both, and in what ways? Why has security become so closely coupled to policing and so salient a concept for urban orders since the beginning of the twenty-first century, if we go beyond the obvious catalyst of 9/11? Indeed, what are the implications of this new coupling, which has led to trends of intensified securitization for foundational processes like flows, space and citizenship, for materializations like built structures and city planning, and for generating social divisions and alliances around distinctions such as legal/illegal, licit/illicit, and formal/informal in cities throughout the world?
Part V, “Experiencing/Knowing the City in Everyday Life,” deals with dimensions of everyday life studied ethnographically, dimensions whose treatment often forms the core of other readers in urban anthropology. Here, the three essays deal with everyday practices of sociality (Chapter 19), with memory and narrative (Chapter 20), and with religious experience (Chapter 21) – as these are rooted in and condition everyday urban lives. However, these essays are exceptional in that each in a different way represents a reflection of the connections between “experience near” concerns with individual and group meanings, and “experience far” conceptualizations crucial to the understanding and contextualization of these meanings. Again, the focus is on self-consciously considering the methods of urban ethnography – applying them as we question them, reorient them, and develop them further. In the essay on practices of sociality, we read of innovative ethnography for the study of the embodied and spatialized practices of groups as they come together, affirm group and individual identities, and make their mark on highly heterogeneous urban landscapes. In the essay on memory and narrative, the connections between these as processes of meaning making, and the making of history – indeed how urban ethnographers can come to terms with the historical dimensions of experience – come into question. The essay on religion brings together two orders of experience – the modern industrial and postindustrial city and universalizing religions – which most classical social theories have kept separate through binaries such as tradition/modernity and secular/religious – and in a highly original way shows the close imbrication of these orders in everyday life through the deployment of religious discourses, practices, and spaces in large contemporary cities.
The essays in Part VI, “Nature and the City,” explore contemporary theoretical, empirical, and political concerns about the cultural politics and political economy of the sustenance and sustainability of cities and urban areas under neoliberal globalization: specifically, the threats to urban sustenance and sustainability created by environmental and social instabilities brought about by the logic of indefinite expansion of global capitalism run wild on a planet whose resources needed for human life are finite, depleting, and irreplaceable. The outcome of this logic taken to its current extreme is global climate change, which manifests itself not as a hypothetical possibility, but as multiple, obdurate, and omnipresent material realities (and perhaps as actors, in some theorizations2). As theoretical insights from disciplines as diverse as climatology, political ecology, and environmental policy studies make clear, the contemporary is a period for reflecting on the costs and future limits of capitalist modernity – and of the cities in which the majority of humanity now reside. The essays in this Part of the Companion selectively address the implications of this transformation for urban anthropology. They take up the theme of how urban anthropologists have defined “nature” and the nature/culture binary as it has been remade within urban landscapes within Euro-America (Chapter 22); the ways in which they theorize the provisioning of food, including urban agriculture, for the populations of the world's burgeoning cities and towns (Chapter 23); the approaches that anthropologists take to the study of urban pollution and waste (Chapter 24); and the approach to the study of resilience of past and contemporary cities within urban ecology (Chapter 25). Taken together, the essays of this section provide an unsettling set of analytical concepts to reconceptualize processes through which contemporary cities are related to the “natural world” on which humans depend, even as they transform it and make meanings about it. Yet the analyses of the essays also resonate with the issues of foundational processes, materializations, divisions and solidarities, critiques of abstractions of consequence, and modes of experiencing cities, dealt with in previous Parts of the Companion.
Part VII, “Challenging the Present, Anticipating Urban Futures” deals with the transformative possibilities for shaping urban futures in the world delineated in the essays in the foregoing Parts of the Companion. The essays in this section examine past, present, and future meanings of the urban commons (Chapter 26); contemporary urban social movements (Chapter 27); and the question of sustainable futures of the world's cities (Chapter 28). These essays not only resonate with the theoretical issues dealt by the authors of Parts I–V, but also pick up and extend the discussions of the essays in Part VI about the sustainability of cities, the place of “nature” in cities (and the cultural politics of its discursive placement), and matters of urban viability (e.g. food provisioning, waste disposal).
But each of the essays in this final Part is also oriented within a proactive, open-ended, anticipatory ethical and political framework, to addressing the question: what is to be done about the profound economic and social inequalities, environmental injustices, and increasingly salient ecological limits connected to contemporary urban life? As neoliberal capitalism, globally instantiated in urban spaces in materializations, reinforces social divisions and seeks to commodify and privatize prior commonly shared forms of life, resources, knowledges, and other collective goods, the essay on the commons points to this concept as the axis not of radical change, but rather of an anticipatory impetus to conserve the prior achievements of urban commoning in Europe associated with the struggles for social democracy (see also Chapter 9 on “Class”). The essay on social movements makes an important theoretical claim for the innovative focus by anthropologists on meaning making within contemporary movements, something which the dominant approaches (e.g. in sociology) to social movement studies largely marginalize, and moreover assesses the urban-based technologically mediated new knowledges, practices, and strategies of contemporary social movements such as the anti-corporate globalization movement, and Occupy, thus firmly situating urban ethnography as a crucial resource for the understanding of these movements. Finally, in a theoretical departure, the essay on urban futures challenges anthropologists of cities in this new Anthropocene age to rethink the urban/rural divide, thoroughly incorporate political ecological approaches into urban anthropology as a way to overcome this conceptual binary, and to pay more attention to the cosmological dimensions of the relationship between humans in cities and nonhuman lifeforms, in a specific ethical challenge to anthropocentric thinking within the work of urban anthropologists.
Readers will quickly notice that inserted in each essay are cross-references to other concepts treated in essays elsewhere in the volume. This is not only for the convenience of readers at a variety of levels. The presence and placement of these cross-references also serve to create a rich conceptual mapping of connections formed among and across these essays – connections which I hope are generative yet at times dissonant. Through the presence of these cross-references, one concept essay refers to concepts treated in a second essay, or even a third or fourth essay, engagements which will extend the argument or inquiries of the first essay into new areas of interest, challenge or modify its findings; or suggest new areas of connection as, in effect, the essays cross-interrogate and enter into dialogue with each other, through the reader's mediation.
A few examples of such cross-talk will have to suffice here. One might ask of the practices and discourses through which the contemporary movements described in the essay on “The Commons”(Chapter 26) are making new claims over “public” space and “private” property in European cities in the face of austerity policies today: how are these similar to and different from those of the movements reconstructed in the essay on “Class” (Chapter 9) that describes decades-long struggles around urban commoning in Europe and the United States, as these transcended numerous cultural, national, occupational and other differences to form the “working class” as a triumphant, if passing presence from the 1960s–1990s?
One might also ask: How are the commoning practices and discourses (e.g., around “flexicurity” and “commonfare”) being deployed by anti-austerity movements in Europe today relevant to the politics of labor through which a new urban working class in China is coming into existence, as noted in the essay on Class? In both regions, popular memories of state-ensured rights to secure social reproduction have animated different yet related protest movements around the environment and labor, a point also made in the essay on “Memory and Narrative” (Chapter 20). In this connection, how are the contemporary movements discussed in the essay on “Social Movements” (Chapter 27) with their anticipatory strategies of “making a world here, now” engaged in a different form of politics from that which deploys such memories of a golden age based on state guarantees of adequate social reproduction?
One might also put the essay on “Gender” (Chapter 10) with its focus on the crucial importance of women organizing collectively around issues of social reproduction, such as their participation in protests against food scarcity and rising food prices, into conversation with the essay on “Citizenship” (Chapter 4), which points in passing to the role of women in forming new settlements in Latin American cities and thereby establishing de facto rights of citizenship. One might ask: To what extent do the moral economies around food and other material goods deemed essential to social existence matter in collective mobilizations around citizenship? In this connection, as well, the essay on “Food and Farming” (Chapter 23) points to the crucial place of food provisioning in the social survival of millions of urban residents, and again to the moral economies around food that thereby arise in cities and urban areas. One conclusion: the cynosure of “gender troubles,” the challenges of material subsistence, the labors of social reproduction, and the politics of citizenship manifested in cities is central to much of popular urban politics, and needs further investigation by anthropologists.
Again, one might ask how the “cosmopolitan canopies” described in the essay on “Global Systems and Globalization” (Chapter 14
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