The City

Continuing off of last weeks readings on citizenship, we now move on to the politics of urban life. This chapter is almost like a reading on economic geography at first, discussing the history of the city and how cities are interconnected to the world around them. This concept is easily seen outside the readings of academics, it is very easy to see that a city like Indianapolis is a distinct spatial unit, but the area around it is visibly tied into the city. It definitely raises the question of what really constitutes an “urban space”, since the periphery around a city is intrinsically tied to the urban center while often being viewed as a separate entity.  To be quite honest this whole idea about an urban space tied to the area around it makes sense through an economic geography lens, but I am having a hard time distinguishing what the authors are trying to say about it through the lens of a political geographer. I understand the importance of the urban area in politics, as the chapter mentions, the world is becoming less agrarian and more and more people are constantly moving from the rural periphery into the core city, making a city an important political space. Cities also hold an important place within the greater international context, according to geographer Peter Taylor and his colleagues. This idea can be seen when the authors brought up “world cities”, cities like London or New York that hold great economic and political power and play an important role on the world political stage. Power, place, and space also play a role on a smaller scale when it deals with urban areas.

The section on gentrification, a concept I believe I actually touched on this in one of my prior blog posts, connects place and citizens in a fascinating way. As the reading discusses, at first an influx of young middle income people revitalizing a neighborhood might seems like a positive thing, but their presence actually could force the old residents out. I think “displacement” is a key word to remember from this chapter, and it is intrinsically geographical and political. It is essentially an economically initiated forced migration of poor residents out of their neighborhood to allow a new cultural and economic “place” identity to establish itself. On a tangent, the text has a fascinating picture of graffiti supporting lower income people who are dealing with gentrification, it is very reminiscent of some wall murals I looked at in Dr. Airriess’s Ethnic Geography class. Some of the wall murals in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, as I recall, were essentially a silent protest against gentrification and the changing nature of the formerly hispanic community’s “place”.  This can also be viewed as a public space in the context that the authors talk about, it’s just not as obvious as a peace protest or as blatant as a man with a megaphone preaching at a street corner. I think the authors are trying to hint at the fact that conflict is more common in the urban setting, and in that way it is more visible and the implications are more extreme. When I think about it, I rarely ever see an televised protest in the countryside or in a forest somewhere. Perhaps the most important connection between urban space and politics is that the two are in constant conflict, informal political movements are probably more likely to be oppressed in a highly visible urban environment then they are anywhere else.

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