Kihato, Caroline Wanjiku, Mejgan Massoumi, Blair A. Ruble, Pep Subrios, and Allison M. Garlans, eds. Urban Diversity: Space, Culture, and Inclusive Pluralism in Cities Worldwide.
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Subject:||Books (Book reviews)|
|Publication:||Name: International Social Science Review Publisher: Pi Gamma Mu Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 Pi Gamma Mu ISSN: 0278-2308|
|Issue:||Date: Fall-Winter, 2011 Source Volume: 86 Source Issue: 3-4|
|Topic:||NamedWork: Urban Diversity: Space, Culture, and Inclusive Pluralism in Cities Worldwide (Collection)|
|Persons:||Reviewee: Kihato, Caroline Wanjiku; Massoumi, Mejgan; Ruble, Blair A.; Subrios, Pep; Garlans, Allison M.|
Kihato, Caroline Wanjiku, Mejgan Massoumi, Blair A. Ruble, Pep
Subrios, and Allison M. Garlans, eds. Urban Diversity: Space, Culture,
and Inclusive Pluralism in Cities Worldwide. Baltimore, MD: The Johns
Hopkins University Press, 2010. xii + 382 pages. Cloth, $65.00.
Urban Diversity: Space, Culture, and Inclusive Pluralism in Cities Worldwide is written by professors, city planners and other professionals, and consists of a compilation of examples in which urban space is a location of diverse interactions between people. This collection of essays examines the different roles that urban space has within the lives of different groups of people in different cities across the globe. Each role that an urban space has is critical in the development of many aspects of urban life and the creation of a diverse urban landscape. In this sense, urban spaces are considered more than just the spatial location in which they maintain. The editors consider urban space and urban culture as pivotal in the quest to establish respect and equality for all groups of people.
A common theme throughout the book is that public space is essential in urban settings in order for citizens to gather, protest, and make decisions. In such places, citizens can increase group cohesion and solidarity among members of society. In an urban context, these public spaces themselves can be influential in group formation. They can provide a place for groups to form, multiple groups to come together, and most importantly, for groups with differing views to confront their differences and strive to bring about understanding and compassion.
Another common theme throughout Urban Diversity is that physical spaces are not the only places in an urban context. Digital spaces create a new place for interaction and net working, and these spaces also foster inclusion. One way is through the decision of who has access to the Internet. The Internet makes spatial locations irrelevant, but access is spatially-determined. The Internet is crucial for groups of people, who may not otherwise have a voice, to be heard. Therefore, the Internet can be a means by which disenfranchised groups can be heard by politicians and other activist groups. Using the Internet, activist groups representing the disenfranchised can create spaces of equality and change, and spaces for people to be heard. However, although public space is dominated by the virtual world, the editors maintain that it is critical that some public spaces remain physical to instill certain interactions, connections and contact between different groups, thus bringing them together.
Globalization is another prevalent theme throughout this book. Globalization is a way of connecting the world and its economies, technologies, and services. Unfortunately, globalization has the ability to exclude some groups of people. Globalization and the need for service-based jobs in poorer urban areas within the Global South have excluded some groups of people and increased the prevalence of drug dealing and drug usage in order to cope with extreme poverty. Yet, some individuals have thrived in these situations. One way in which youth in cities of the Global South have gained a voice and brought about attention to the needs of impoverished groups is through hip-hop. This form of music and culture has become a way of life in many urban areas in the Global South and has been a way for the youth in these poverty-stricken areas to empower themselves and to have a voice for their community, city, and country.
Nationalism and the desire to feel connected with the urban area in which an individual resides is another common theme throughout Urban Diversity. Nationalism is typically thought of as something that is place-bound. In some urban areas, groups of migrants have tried to instill nationalism within the migrant population. In some cities in the Global South, migrants are often excluded or treated as criminals. These groups argue that they affect the outcomes of planning decisions within the urban context as much as native-born residents. The editors state that differences in autochthonous languages do not have to be a barrier for these groups. Furthermore, they maintain that language planning is necessary to prevent exclusion or extinction of languages that are not considered the "norm" for a particular area. Multilingual urban planning requires that all languages be considered equal, with language policies joining language and identity, in a multilinguistic context that generates knowledge and diversifies the voice of local urban politics.
Urban places are home to many different ways of life. Urban areas are often places where diversity is welcomed and appreciated. Richard Florida's concept of the "creative class" is often described as being drawn toward diverse urban environments. These environments can benefit greatly from effective local governance that voices the needs of the urban citizens, as a whole. This approach to government allows citizens greater control over the decision-making process. Urban reform tactics, such as participatory budgeting, are also ways in which concerns can be expressed by low-income populations, and resources can then be obtained for these struggling municipalities. Resources can help organizations acquire a voice in politics. Local and grassroots organizations often lack resources, and, thus, lack the means necessary to bring about awareness of their causes and concerns. The editors maintain that simply providing these organizations with resources is not a means by which these groups can establish a voice in local politics. Local governments need to recognize all organized groups, and acknowledge the imbalance that is present between groups that have resources and those who do not.
In Urban Diversity, the editors focus on the existence of a diverse population and the possibility that respect and equality can be obtained through the understanding and acceptance of multiculturalism in an urban environment. Because urban spaces are home to diverse groups of people, interactions can take place that may not happen outside of an urban context. In this sense, urban spaces provide a place for new groups to form, groups to come together, and for compassion and understanding to exist in order to promote respect and equality.
Urban Diversity is in-line with previous research concerning the role of diversity within an urban context. Researchers such as Gilles Duranton and Diego Puga (Nursery Cities, 2001), Mariana Valverde (The Ethic of Diversity, 2008) and Sharon Zukin (Urban Lifestyles, 1998) have produced studies regarding the role of diversity in fostering innovative research, the promotion of ethics in a diverse urban environment, and the influence of diversity in boosting local economies through the marketing of an array of diverse entertainment, clothing and food choices for urban residents, respectively. Urban Diversity looks at diverse human interactions and the influence that diversity has within urban areas. Because it is a compilation of real-world examples of how diversity not only exists, but also thrives within an urban setting, this book provides the reader with a better understanding of the plurality of roles that exist within cities around the world. Urban Diversity is an excellent resource for human and urban geographers. It is also appropriate for anyone interested in learning more about diversity and its role in shaping local politics, urban culture, and technology.
Amy Moore, MPA
Graduate Student, City and Regional Planning and Transportation Planning
Georgia Institute of Technology
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