[Reader-list] 'World Class City' concept & repercussions for urban planning in Asia-Pacific

Anil Bhattarai anilbhattarai at gmail.com
Fri Sep 18 07:56:32 IST 2009

Hi Yasir,
Here is a link I came across that discusses the transformation of
Detroit into prosperous food city in the US.
Yes, good idea to share links and also project ideas.

I am currently in Toronto, but will be moving back to Nepal in
December, initially for a 9month field research for my ph.d. and after
ph.d. for good to start systainable food system building work in a
western mountain region of Nepal. I am seriously exploring the
possibilities of doing alternative small-town urbanism there. Let's
see. I do not hesitate to imagine, howsoever idiosyncratic the ideas
may sound like.


On Thu, Sep 17, 2009 at 4:59 PM, yasir ~يا سر <yasir.media at gmail.com> wrote:
> Yes i think its an important point that we all indulge in the fantasy
> of the global the modern the urban cosmopolis.
> can i indulge you and others in a the other fantasy, of the
> alternatives. where are the alternatives, why are they not popular
> (they'are absent).
> i find my vision is blurred (i agree: is may also be the failure of
> the eye that's Left?). and all the alternatives i remembered i no
> longer do in my current aporia.
> may be be we can list some resources, websites, people here? how about
> that. around themes of visions and practical politics?
> yasir
> mauj collective
> karachi
> On Thu, Sep 17, 2009 at 10:06 PM, Anil Bhattarai
> <anilbhattarai at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Hello,
>> I am a newbie to this discussion group and therefore I don't have much
>> reference to past discussions. However, Prem's discussion about how
>> 'we' have adopted the world-class city is very insightful. I think, as
>> you have outlined, the reference to the imposition thesis as if it was
>> the World Bank and the IMF with their grand-designs which shoved
>> specific models on 'us' does not allow us to think creatively about
>> what needs to be done, in addition to the fact it was not also an
>> empirically full picture. There is a growing desire to participate in
>> that dream--the dream of a particular notion of world-city among the
>> majority of the ruling elites.
>> It is here, I see the need of creating a urban politics that
>> galvanizes 'others' in a project that presents different visions of
>> the city. The problem in India and many other places, the politics is
>> dominated by a narrow elites, and the majority of the residents, and
>> mostly poor among them, do not have spaces in which they can
>> politically articulate different visions.
>> I see this part mostly missing in this post-colonial dream analysis.
>> It's not the general 'we' who aspired for particular dreams, but there
>> are class dimensions, there are caste dimensions, and there are
>> gendered dimensions to it. Ultimately, it's the failure of the
>> politics of the left to provide creative alternatives to the dominant
>> practices of city-building.
>> Sooner or later, it is by compulsion and not by choice, that even the
>> middle class will have to come to realize that this particular brand
>> of world-class city--with flyovers, megamalls, is going to be too
>> costly for human lives.
>> But again, the challenge is not only to 'see' how things have emerged,
>> but also to begin the process of constructing diverse visions/ or
>> consolidating them through political process.
>> Anil
>> On Thu, Sep 17, 2009 at 4:53 AM, Prem Chandavarkar <prem.cnt at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> I am not sure about an analysis which sees the whole problem as pushed on us
>>> from above by global financial institutions.  As Foucault has pointed out,
>>> power is difficult to enforce until it is also constructed as something
>>> desirable to those on whom power is to be enforced.  So one has to look
>>> within the Asian region and see why the idea of the "world class city" is
>>> seen as desirable by Asians.
>>> In India, I believe it is linked to two factors:
>>> Firstly, as a post-colonial country we suffered a sense of historical
>>> discontinuity.  Given over two centuries of history that one could not
>>> consider authentically one's own, the connection between past present and
>>> future suffered a disruption.  This created a development discourse for the
>>> first five decades after independence where the nation's sense of history
>>> was perceived as being in a state of suspension between a memory of a
>>> glorious yet distant past and an anticipated technological modernity.
>>> Secondly, when it came to any sense of culture, the city suffered from a
>>> lack of perceived authenticity.  Any discussion of "authentic" Indian
>>> culture was always rooted in the village.  Unlike the west where the city
>>> was seen as the site of the avant garde and therefore the cutting edge of
>>> cultural production, in India culture was perceived as being largely rural,
>>> and the city was seen more as a technical efficiency to be viewed purely
>>> through a rational lens.
>>> But after 1991, with the successes of industries such as software in
>>> particular (and other industries followed based on the global credibility
>>> for India that the software industry created), suddenly India was perceived
>>> as being anchored in global production in a very central way.  Modernity no
>>> longer had to be anticipated - it had arrived.  The software industry is
>>> essentially an urban (that too largely metropolitan) industry, and therefore
>>> the city was seen as leading India's march into modernity.
>>> This has created a perception that "globalisation equals modernity", and has
>>> created a desire for the global city in India, where the global city is seen
>>> as clean, ordered, efficient and visually iconic.  Some indicators of this
>>> desire are:
>>> a)       One often hears a public rhetoric that constructs an imagery of the
>>> global city as being clean and efficient: examples like Singapore and
>>> Shanghai are often raised as paradigms that the Indian city must aspire
>>> towards.
>>> b)      There is a growing wave of middle class activism driven by
>>> resident's associations that is pushing towards better master planning and
>>> the better enforcement of master plans.
>>> c)       Judicial judgments are leaning towards this notion of the efficient
>>> and ordered city.  To take as an example three recent Supreme Court
>>> judgments on Delhi:
>>> ·         The requirement that all public transport vehicles must shift to
>>> CNG as a fuel.
>>> ·         The sealing of shops and other business establishments in
>>> residential areas (even though the master plan provisions of commercial
>>> space are grossly inadequate for a city of the size of Delhi).
>>> ·         The decision that the three decades old Nangla Machi basti on the
>>> banks of the Yamuna must be demolished because it is not recognised on the
>>> master plan, and the master plan authorities have declared the site as the
>>> location of the games village for the proposed Commonwealth Games.
>>> d)      Cities are now concerned about branding themselves.  City
>>> authorities evince greater interest in brandable projects such as stadiums
>>> and convention centres, as opposed to non-brandable projects such as social
>>> housing.
>>> The existence of organisations like World Bank and IMF has definitely played
>>> a role in this process, but one has to realise that we have sought them out,
>>> and it is not a one-directional process of something being shoved down our
>>> throats.  Except it is a very narrow (but powerful) segment that is seeking
>>> out this model.  Unfortunately it is this segment that dominates the
>>> attention of the media, and as a result the dislocations to large segments
>>> of our population go unrecognised.
>>> Am copying this to the urban study group as there have been discussions on
>>> that list expressing concern over the concept of the 'world class city'.
>>> Regards,
>>> Prem
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>> --
>> Anil Bhattarai
>> Programme in Planning
>> University of Torontoh
>> www.ajamvarifarm.org
>> www.zmag.org
>> www.nyayahealth.org

Anil Bhattarai
Programme in Planning
University of Torontoh

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