Monthly Archives: February 2014

Is Breaking Really That Bad? How it’s Heroin, Not Meth, that’s Albuquerque’s Vice.

This is the second of six blogs written as part of the assessment for North American Cities, a second year undergraduate course in Geography at the University of Manchester. Required to write a blog of 1500 words on an issue of their choosing, Nicola Carter chose to write about Albuquerque …

Albuquerque, New Mexico, has been pushed into the spotlight thanks to a certain bald meth dealer hitting our screens in early 2008. If you haven’t seen AMC’s Breaking Bad, I suggest you do so. Lock the door, take the phone off the hook and clear a week in your calendar. Shot and based in Albuquerque and chronicling the life and crimes of chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-dealer (Bryan Cranston, below right) and his petulant protégé (Aaron Paul, below left), Breaking Bad paints an altogether grim picture of drug use in the United States. Prostitution, murder, gang mentality and violence all feature heavily in the show – officially named the most streamed (both illegally and legally) show in the world. What is really interesting though, is the city behind the story – a real life city faced with a real life drug problem.

The term “Breaking Bad” itself is a southern colloquialism, meaning to stray from the straight and narrow; in Albuquerque’s case, a move towards drug usage. Methamphetamine, Breaking Bad’s primary drug of choice, is arguably not the drug which causes the most problems in Albuquerque – Albuquerque in fact has fewer patient admittances for methamphetamine abuse than both the state and the national average. Government figures show that Albuquerque only really stands out as a “problem” city in terms of heroin usage and abuse of prescription painkillers (you can check out the 2008 report here). There’s a problem with these official figures, though. Whilst there may be less patient admittances, how does that translate to actual figures of users? No-one is naïve enough to think that every drug user goes into a rehab program – nor that every user is even on any kind of radar. Many people can (and do) keep their addictions secret, from family, friends and colleagues.

New Mexico as a state doesn’t have the best reputation for drug usage. New Mexico had the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in 2008 and in 2011 – that equates to more people dying from overdoses than from all road traffic accidents per year. Española, just 85 miles South West of Albuquerque, has a level of drug related deaths roughly 6-7 times the national average (that’s 42.5 drug related deaths per 100,000 In Española, compared to the US average of just 6).  Whilst Albuquerque isn’t perhaps as bad in terms of statistics, try this interesting test. Internet search “Albuquerque drugs”. Yep, you find this delightful fellow as the first result.

Ouch. Now a bit of a comparison – do the same with “Baltimore drugs”. Supposedly the heroin capital of the US, but no self-professed drug dealer posting his home address on the internet. Do the same with Chicago, or Tucson, which has approximately the same population as Albuquerque. This poses a more interesting question about the culture of Albuquerque, perhaps. What kind of city would facilitate such brazen illicit activity on the internet and more importantly, perhaps, why is there a need for such a thing?

I read an interesting article recently written by a born and bred Albequerquean in Time magazine recently that really opened my eyes. There’s no aspiration, the piece argues – no hunger and no means of escaping the “city of mediocrity”. Apathy is what really rings true with this piece – low income families, poverty, a culture of brazen lawlessness (remember our friendly neighbourhood drug dealer, just a Google search away?) and a wild sense of isolation. The piece, any many more that you can find all over the internet also highlight the use of prescription drugs as gateways to harder substances, like heroin. One small scale study, on a group of seven high school students, found that every single one of them knew someone who’d abused prescription drugs, and every person interviewed for a news story said that the route to heroin started with prescription drugs. Teens in New Mexico are twice as likely to experiment with heroin than in any other state, resulting in $300,000 worth of heroin being sold in Albuquerque every day. Taking into consideration that heroin is now the cheaper alternative to prescription drugs (80-mg of Oxycontin, a prescription opiate based painkiller, costs $40-$60, compared with $20 for a bag of longer lasting heroin) that could be the equivalent of 15,000 users per day. Of the 13 high schools in Albuquerque, 9 have full time drug counsellors.

So what does this mean for the city? The drugs abuse stories that hit the media are usually extreme cases or based on sweeping generalisations – like this story from 2012 where a two year old child tested positive for methamphetamine. Albuquerque has a crime rate 53% higher than the US average. Since 1999, Albuquerque has had consistently higher levels of arson, theft, assault, murder, auto theft, robbery and rape than the U.S average. That’s staggering for a city of just over half a million. Maybe not surprising though, in a city where 22% of the residents live below the poverty line. This online map is awesome for tracking areas of the city. Areas of the city such as Trumbull Village, popularly and infamously known as the War Zone, is plagued by drug related shootings and crime – and 30.3% of the population live below the poverty line. Areas like Santa Fe show just how much drug policing can impact an area; a 20% decline in property crime (including burglaries) is largely attributed to an increase in drug related arrests.

The relationship between poverty and crime (read more here) has been the subject of numerous  academic studies over the years.  Put simply: high crime rates are considered by both the UN and World Bank to be a barrier to development. Albuquerque has both high crime rates and high poverty rates, perhaps both helped along by the high rates of drug abuse and usage? Figures from 2011 state that almost half of all US prison inmates were incarcerated for drug offences. The Albuquerque Journal publishes arrest records for the city, and a substantial number of these are for drug related offences. There are countless reports and testimonials from ex-addicts who explain the lengths they went to for a fix; burglary, prostitution, muggings or even kidnapping. Many others may have been committing crimes to pay for their drug habit. Heroin is cheap, yes, but expensive enough that many users are forced to steal to feed their addiction. The sheer cost of the law and order associated with the drug trade is staggering – police officers, judges, courts, prison services, lawyers. Drug enforcement cost the American Government as a whole billions of dollars (a recent estimate is $41.3 billion) a year – not including the cost of crime indirectly caused by drugs.

It seems Albuquerque’s problems with drugs are actually quite well exemplified by Breaking Bad; the ease with which Walt accesses drugs, and how easily he finds buyers for his meth, Jesse’s using of drugs to escape a painful childhood, and the murders that seem to occur in every episode. If only ending Albuquerque’s relationship with drugs was as easy as ending Breaking Bad

Albuquerque has a heroin problem; a problem that’s debilitating and demobilising for the city. A drug problem that exacerbates the other problems in the city; that drives and maintains poverty, which increases crime and reduces aspiration. The infiltration of heroin into high schools and the young age at which addiction is starting is crippling the city, breeding another generation of addicts and perpetuating a culture of lawlessness. The amount of money being poured into drug policing in the city clearly isn’t enough: in 2010, a 16 year old girl overdosed on heroin and died, following a two year struggle with addiction. Based on a state average life expectancy of just over 78 years, that’s 62 potential working, childbearing, tax paying, life enjoying years lost. And overdose and drug related deaths are on the increase. Reducing this number will be a hard slog, but kicking the heroin habit might just be what Albuquerque needs.

Detroiters: Back in the Driving Seat

This is the first of six blogs written as part of the assessment for North American Cities, a second year undergraduate course in Geography at the University of Manchester. Required to write a blog of 1500 words on an issue of their choosing, Amy Barron chose to write about Detroit …

Detroit is the focus of a stereotype. After years of decline, together with the repetitious drip feed of negative media attention; riots, white flight, dereliction and deserted neighbourhoods have become emblematic of the city. Today as the city faces rejection from government and global press, Detroiters have taken matters into their own hands, nurturing innovation, initiative and creativity.

Detroit; the city that put the world on wheels; the throbbing heart of American culture, soul and industry; the sprawling metropolis; the epitome of the American Dream. During its 1950s heyday, the ‘motorcity’ thrived, providing an accommodating, dynamic and cohesive urban hub; a centrifugal force for the global automobile trade whilst functioning as a magnet attracting social and economic capital that saw the population rocket. So, what went wrong? I hear you cry.

Well listen up America, there’s a lesson to be learnt. After the initial auto-industrial success, it was the failure of the American government to recognise that the Asian auto-manufacturing expansion was upon them and America was effectually bitten on the ass by its competitor. This ultimately caused the start of the cardio-collapse of the heart of American auto-industries, unable to stay ahead of their efficient Asian opponents. This slow death of the motor giants eventually caused the inner-city commuter highway vestals to become clogged with poverty as the rich fled and suburban arteries were drained of talent as the skilled relocated elsewhere. The eventual outcome was a population plummet, leading to a lower tax base. Crime rates spiked and public service networks crumbled. The rust belt of the American mid-west was rapidly corroding and Detroit was the ‘buckle’. The media willingly jumped on the bandwagon and the drip feed of negativity began to infest the city. Events reached their pinnacle when Detroit hit the headlines as it became the largest city in the US to file for bankruptcy. Investment was deterred and the endless cycle of decline had seemingly begun.

So, how do you remake a city and perhaps see it prosper once more? Seemingly an impossible task? Well, providing there is more to life than generalised statistics and headline-grabbing  quotes, I-and Detroit-argue ‘hope is not lost’. Believe it or not media, through the dereliction and destitution; human nature prevails, inter-connections are materialising, and community clusters are beginning to form. Whilst the data presented may well hold elements of truth, surely daily community interaction, cohesion and a dense urban texture are equally important qualities which define urban life. The Detroiters are innovating their way out of this problem, so why should the very real, happening, positive efforts be brushed under the carpet?

All too often the city is portrayed in a negative light. Rarely reported is the surviving stock; the green sprouts of hope emerging at grass roots level. The winds of change are blowing through the streets of Detroit with more force than ever as ‘a neighbour helping neighbour’ ethos is spreading generating a strong ‘shared responsibility for a shared place’ attitude. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes; revitalised and ready for flight, young maverick entrepreneurs are surfacing, thrusting forth new innovative ideas which will regenerate, renew and rejuvenate.

Although Detroit may, in some respects be teetering on the precipice, it still has the safety harness of ‘community strength’ to hold onto, pulling it back from the brink. Realising the difficulties they are facing, many residents are calling on inner resources and imagination, taking issues into their own hands. All sectors of society-young, old, groups, and individuals-are pioneering positivity impacting across the social, economic and environmental spectrum. Could Detroit be a leading beacon in showing the rest of the urban world the path to overcoming these universally experienced problems? With progress in green transportation, sustainability, business incubation and community cohesion; the future looks promising. Detroit is moving forward, starting where it matters; at the heart and with the people.

Sixty four year old John Ratov is only one of the thousands of people across Detroit who have become self-appointed community activists. A former inmate, Ratov now spends his time serving others by giving rides, delivering lunches and visiting the pitiably lonely. Not only is Ratov actively improving the lives of his fellow citizens but his ‘community spirit’ is rubbing off onto others such as 52 year old Renee Miler who met Ratov at a local soup kitchen and now also helps saying; ‘’it’s just the right thing to do’’. Together they continue building an ever expanding human life support machine for the city.

Not only is this ingenuity occurring on an individual level, but also at a collective level. Organised by several local charities, with ‘booming dance music, flaming BBQ grills, and a stocked food tent for thousands of homeless’ Detroit hosted it’s ‘Red carpet backyard surprise BBQ!’ The idea was simply to give struggling Detroiters a holiday meal like the rest of America would be eating that day. The party was a huge success with the food line snaking through the park as far as the eye could see. Instead of the streets feeling bare and cold, they were full of life, laughter and love with thousands of homeless folk uniting in celebration as the festive mood set in and spread through the crowd with a shared sense of place and belonging. This is the precise way a community should unite, by helping one another. It engenders the reconnection of the fragmented city scape and improves Detroit for the greater good.

Have you too been fooled into believing Detroit has being deserted by the young? Well, think again. ‘I am Young Detroit’ is a social venture initiative promoting and publishing positive change occurring in Detroit. Social entrepreneur, Andy Didorosi is one of many who are determined to make a difference.  After reading ‘Detroit’s light rail is dead’ Andy bought a bunch of buses and founded ‘The Detroit Bus Company’. This was a huge success. Not only are the buses environmentally sustainable hybrids but Andy added his quirky artistic edge making them ‘public party buses ‘reinforcing the young imaginative flair so many Detroiters possess. With service hours rapidly expanding, cool areas in the downtown are valuably reconnecting. I am captivated and amused by Andy and found myself continually impressed by his ambitious nature when reading more. The world could really use a few more Andys ready to give it a shot!

The Political Ecology of Health: Concerns over urban ‘swiftlet farming’ and communicable diseases in Georgetown, Malaysia

Creighton  Connolly, an Entitle Fellow, and second year geog PhD student in Geography, School of Environment, Education and Development, University, reflects on his on-going fieldwork …

On December 10th, news agencies in Malaysia reported the first death in the country from Influenza A (bird flu).1 Previously, Malaysia has claimed to be ‘immune’ from the bird flu epidemic which has hit neighboring countries, particularly Indonesia over the past decade. Even when the SARS outbreak hit in 2002, Malaysia did not have any recorded records of the disease (despite a higher than average number of deaths from flu-like cases). However, some suspicion was raised when the media later announced that the death was actually caused by a thyroid complication, rather than Influenza A, or bird flu. More alarming, was the fact that reports came out that three of the victim’s colleagues had been quarantined in the hospital as they had tested positive for H1N1 – of which bird’s flu is a strain.2 The question can then be asked, that if the victim who died had thyroid complications, then why did her colleagues test positive for H1N1?

This recent announcement thus caused considerable alarm amongst Malaysia’s NGOs and civil society groups, such as the Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) and Friends of the Earth Malaysia (SAM), who have been concerned for a number of years with the high population of swiftlets in the city of Georgetown, Penang (as well as many other Malaysian cities), which are reared in an intensive manner for their valuable edible-nests.3 The NGOs’ concerns have been justified due to a recent outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in Vietnam in May 2013, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of swiftlets and one child in the Phan Rang area of south-central Vietnam.4 This case provided the first indication that swiftlets are susceptible to the bird-flu virus, as many swiftlet farmers and biologists alike indicated that swiftlets were unlikely carriers of such vectors due to their unique characteristics.

A cluster of swiftlet farms in Sitiawan, Perak, located adjacent to a school playing field. Sitiawan is a town some 200 hundred kilometers from Georgetown, where the industry started in Malaysia. The town’s central area has been almost entirely converted to swiftlet farming over the past 15 years.

A cluster of swiftlet farms in Sitiawan, Perak, located adjacent to a school playing field. Sitiawan is a town some 200 hundred kilometers from Georgetown, where the industry started in Malaysia. The town’s central area has been almost entirely converted to swiftlet farming over the past 15 years.

Baby swiftlets occupying their nests. During the day, the adult swifts will go out and scavenge for food to bring back for their young. Wooden planks are attached to the cement walls of swiftlet farms for the birds to perch on while constructing their nests.

Baby swiftlets occupying their nests. During the day, the adult swifts will go out and scavenge for food to bring back for their young. Wooden planks are attached to the cement walls of swiftlet farms for the birds to perch on while constructing their nests.

The PHT has been lobbying for a ban on swiftlet farming in the Georgetown urban area, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, since 2007 when the first government guidelines on swiftlet farming (known as 1GP) first appeared. These guidelines explicitly stated that swiftlet farming should not take place in residential areas. December 31st of 2013 marked the end of the Penang state’s three-year grace-period for the removal of all Swiftlet farms in the city of Georgetown. In a recent interview that I had with YB Chow Kwon Yeow of the Penang state government, he prepared a large document outlining for me the history of the government’s involvement in regulating the issues related to swiftlet farms in the central city area. The policies date back to 2008, when the town received UNESCO world heritage designation, and coincidently, when the current state government came into power. Since then, Chow’s government has been under a lot of pressure to clear the city of swiftlet farms, as the buildings themselves and the birds they attract have been been widely identified as a social nuisance in the town, as well as the possible source of health hazards from diseases like dengue fever and bird flu. However, Mr. Chow candidly told me that, despite having some problems early on, the number of swiftlet farming premises in Georgetown has been greatly reduced and should be down to less than a dozen in 2014.

Despite Mr. Chow’s optimistic outlook on the number of swiftlet farms in the Georgetown World Heritage Site, there are still several concerns, as addressed in a recent open letter issued by the PHT to the State Government in Penang on December 30th, 2013. The letter wanted clarification on the state’s definition of ‘shutting down a swiftlet house’, because the PHT has not been convinced that the premises have actually been ‘shut down’ in a permanent manner. For instance, it is one thing to remove the tweeters and sound systems used by swiftlet farmers to lure in potential birds (as documented in several high profile press releases), 5 but another to completely seal up the windows and entry ways until the birds no longer return. Another concern raised is the ‘true’ status of bird flu in the state of Penang, in view of the recent bird flu/H1N1 scares  discussed above; as well as rising incidence of dengue fever in Penang state.6 Finally, there are the general concerns by the PHT and members of the public alike regarding issues of transparency and responsiveness on behalf of the government – particularly in regards to public health threats and public nuissances, such as bird flu.

Hopefully now that we have emerged into 2014, the state of Penang will fulfill its promises of clearing Georgetown of most of the existing swiftlet premises. Municipalities in Malaysian Borneo, such as Kuching, which I also visited briefly during my ongoing field research on this topic, have been largely successful in minimizing the numbers of swiftlet farms within the urban area, while others like Kota Kinabalu are now following suit.7 Granted the legislative context in Borneo is different from that in Peninsular Malaysia, but hopefully cities like Georgetown can learn from these successes in the near future.

On a final note, it should be clear that the point of this piece is not to demonize the lucrative swiftlet farming industry, nor to call for an outright ban on this business in Malaysia – far from it. Rather, it is to bring the struggles over urban swiftlet farming in Malaysia, which are at once cultural, economic, ecological, and political, to a wider international audience. It is also to help push forward the calls within Malaysia for the swiftlet farming industry to be reconfigured in a manner that is more socially (and ecologically) just, and does not put Malaysia’s urban residents at risk from disease, or other socio-economic impacts.    

References 

1.    Damodaran S., 2013. ‘Police civilian personnel dies of influenza A’. NTV7. [accessed 2013 Dec 15]. Available from: http://www.ntv7.com.my/7edition/local-en/Police_civilian_personnel_dies_of_influenza_A.html

2.         Due to a host of intersecting factors, the price of edible bird’s nest, which is made almost entirely out of the swift’s saliva, skyrocketed in the 1990s, which led urban residents across Malaysia to begin converting low-rise shop houses into ‘swiftlet farms’: cave-like bunkers used to attract swiftlets (see photos 1 and 2, above), and harvest their nests in a more efficient manner than was possible previously. Swiftlets traditionally make their nests in caves throughout Southeast Asia, where harvesters would carry out the high-risk work of collecting their nests from the cave walls.

3.    Malaysiakini, 2013. ‘Woman died of thyroid complications, not H1N1’. Malaysiakini, 11 December [accessed 2013 Dec 21]. Available from: http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/249096

4.    The Nation, 2013. ‘H5N1 virus hits birds-nest farm in Vietnam’. The Nation. April 12, 2013 [accessed 2014 Jan 6]. Available from: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/H5N1-virus-hits-birds-nest-farm-in-Vietnam-30203958.html

5.   Kaur, M and Yeoh, W., 2011. ‘Swift action on swiftlet breeding: Next enforcement on 94 operators to begin next month, says chow’. Star Metro, M4. 25 February 2011.

6.    Straits Times, 2013. ‘Malaysia sounds warning on rising deaths from dengue’. Straits Times, Dec 21. [accessed 2013 Dec 21]. Available from: http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/se-asia/story/malaysia-sounds-warning-rising-deaths-dengue-20131221

7.    Salma, K, 2010. ‘Penang may follow Sabah in disallowing farming in urban areas’. blog [accessed 2013 Oct 15]. Available from: https://sites.google.com/site/khoosalma/the-star-news-archive/disallowing-swiftlet-farming

Cosmopolitanism: Is It Good for the Jews?

Dr Cathy Gelbin, Senior Lecturer in German Studies at the University of Manchester and currently on AHRC Fellowship, writes about cosmopolitanism and the Jews in a piece that will be published on Friday 7 February in The Jewish Chronicle 

When I was growing up behind the Wall in East Germany, cosmopolitanism was not a good word for the Jews. Hitler had persecuted us as ‘rootless parasites’. And hushed up as they were, rumours of Stalin’s purges of Jews as ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ had not escaped me either. My American-Jewish family, fleeing McCarthyism, had paradoxically averted this violent fate by settling in East Germany just as the Stalinist persecutions heightened in Moscow, Prague and Budapest. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, their shadows lingered as my step-grandfather Stefan Heym, the writer and later the German parliament’s president by seniority, became East Germany’s most prominent dissident.

Fast-forward to the new millennium and cosmopolitanism has become a buzzword across academic fields. Now a literary and film scholar at Manchester University, I have followed this new trend with puzzlement. How could a concept so severely discredited by a history of persecutions suddenly accompany the celebrated vision of ethnic, cultural and national harmony in the New Europe? And moreover, where were the Jews in this new discourse, which barely mentioned, and often completely ignored, the past troubled history of the cosmopolitanist label?

Academia has seen a few such conceptual somersaults since the 1980s. First, we had the ‘hybrid’ turning from a biological concept used in the Nazi definition of ‘mixed-race’ persons of Jewish descent into a productive term for the post-colonial mix of ethnicities and cultures. Then, ‘queer’ was lifted from its homophobic origins to connote the new academic study of human sexual diversity. Much as I have pursued these lines of interest in my own work, the niggling doubt remains: can we do this? Can we simply imbue a concept with new meanings and forget about its past histories of violence?

Granted, the history of cosmopolitanist discourse – and the place of Jews within it – has always been a chequered one. Together with my co-author Sander L. Gilman, the eminent cultural and literary historian at Emory University, I set out to unearth the ambivalent story of modern cosmopolitanism and the Jews. Our forthcoming study, which includes German archival material from the late nineteenth century to the early 1930s, reveals a remarkable culture of Jewish cosmopolitanism, which, despite the onslaught of Nazism, has survived into modern times. Indeed, German-speaking Jews have contributed disproportionately to the modern cosmopolitan idea and its vision of universal human rights in particular.

In the late eighteenth century, German Enlightenment writers revived the notion of the cosmopolitan from the ancient Greek, where ‘kosmopolitês’ meant one’s sense of simultaneous allegiance to a city-state and a wider, universal context. The non-Jewish philosopher Immanuel Kant became a key figure in this new debate when he demanded a Weltbürgerrecht, a universal law of citizenship, to which all humans were entitled. Of course, these Christian thinkers had little time for the Jews, who in their eyes were backwardly obsessed with their own culture.

Nonetheless, German-Jewish intellectuals who sought to gain full recognition in German-speaking society enthusiastically embraced Kant’s ideas and Goethe’s cultural equivalent of a world literature. Soon, German-speaking Jews became seen as either too particularist on the one hand or too international on the other. This antisemitism, in all but name, had a profound effect on German-speaking Jews, rejecting the accepted definition of their own German and Austrian identities. Zionists called for a separate homeland, whereas others insisted their identity was not merely Jewish or German or Austrian, but one beyond ethnicity and national borders.

And yet, this little-remembered Jewish engagement with cosmopolitanism in Germany and Austria between the 1870s and 1930s was a hotbed of ideas that drove the formation of the European Union. German-speaking Jewish intellectuals were among the first to see their identity as European. Just as Paris’s intellectuals gathered in the cafés of the Left Bank at the fin-de-siècle, German-speaking secular Jews would spend their time at coffee houses in Berlin, Vienna and Prague. Among them was Franz Kafka, as well as the already world-famous writers Stefan Zweig and Lion Feuchtwanger. World War One, with its senseless bloodshed among the European nations, galvanized their quest for a Europe beyond borders, as would the Nazis’ rise to power.

The works of certain writers also reveal the close connections between early Zionism and the cosmopolitan idea of Europe. These were by no means separate camps. Theodor Herzl imagined a Jewish state founded on the cultural and scientific achievements of a modern Europe cleansed of nationalist conflicts. And conversely, Kafka, Zweig and Feuchtwanger, in asserting the powerful idea of Jewish particularity in the diaspora, transplanted the ideas of cultural Zionism back onto their native European soil.

Likewise, political theorist Eduard Bernstein exerted an important influence on European identity. Though partially critical of Marxism, Bernstein followed in the footsteps of the German Jew Karl Marx who, while writing here at Manchester’s Cheetham’s Library, dreamed of the international working class struggle against social injustice. But of course, Jews who represented the cosmopolitan were not always on the left: one of them was the German industrialist Walther Rathenau, who served as foreign minister in the Weimar Republic. He was assassinated in an antisemitic plot on June 24, 1922. Our research shows that these German-speaking Jews had a powerful impact on the thinking that spawned post-1945 European unity, especially the EU.

Although Nazism and Stalinism had largely destroyed cosmopolitan thinking and its bearers, its traces lived on among German Jews who were critical of these totalitarian legacies. It was the political theorist Hannah Arendt who, in 1951, coined the term totalitarianism itself. A decade later, in her famous report on the Jerusalem trial of Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Holocaust, Arendt would envision a future international court that would adjudicate on disputes among the nations. The creation of an international legal body had already been debated after World War One, but the Holocaust undoubtedly catalysed this process. With the establishment of the International Criminal Court in 2002 and the recent International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Arendt’s modern vision of Kant’s global norms of justice has now become a political reality.

On both sides of the Iron Curtain, the cosmopolitan idea also served Jewish intellectuals to oppose the Cold War division of Europe. To name but two, Arendt’s former husband, the philosopher Günter Anders, wrote in the West against the impending nuclear war, while in the East Stefan Heym mocked the hard-line politics manifested in the Berlin Wall. So has cosmopolitan thought become obsolete now that many of its ideas are enshrined in the political reality of the EU and United Nations sanctions?

A quick look at the post-1990s world shows us that this is not the case so long as antisemitism and racism, those close relations of modernity, are still alive and kicking. In France, Hungary and the countries of the former Soviet Union, antisemitism has reached a worrying new high. In Germany, racist police bias enabled the systematic killings, execution style, of at least ten Turkish Germans by a Nazi underground group that is only now on trial. Many European countries, including Britain, remain dogged by a racist debate on immigration, which blames their own economic shortcomings on migrants, who, by providing cheap labour, create much of the wealth we enjoy. Elsewhere, the idea of universal human rights is fuelling the causes of disenfranchised ethnic and sexual groups, such as Israel’s Palestinian and migrant populations on the one hand, and its soaring gay activism on the other.

What is remarkable is that there are still Jewish thinkers living in German-speaking Europe, who are standard bearers for intellectual life. For example, during my last visit to Vienna’s Café Central – a historic gathering place for Austrian Jews – I spotted Elfriede Jelinek, winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize for Literature, who often speaks of her own paternal Jewish roots. And aside from blatant social injustices, what about the image of Jews in the multicultural fabric of our societies?

Take London’s East End, whose Jewish roots reflect its cosmopolitan history, though on a smaller scale. And yet, as in contemporary Germany, today’s East Enders are largely unaware of the area’s rich Jewish cultural past. During our recent event at the East End’s RichMix cultural centre, which was recorded as a podcast, members of the community had the opportunity to take part in a ‘town meeting’ to explore the complex stories of migration to London’s East End from the 1800s to the present day. Bringing together local people with practitioners in migration politics, education and the arts, our event looked at the rich stories of groups such as the Huguenots, Jews, and the more recent Asian, Caribbean and Eastern European communities.

Or take Manchester itself with its vibrant community of some 30,000 Jews, who rarely figure in debates on the city’s multiculturalism. One cannot convincingly argue that Jews are structurally disadvantaged nowadays, but many do feel left out of discussions about cultural diversity. Is this because Manchester has its very own North-South divide? In casual conversation, one sometimes hears slurs against the Haredi Jews ‘up North’, the supposedly authentic Jews of stereotype. By implication, the good – but also assumed to be less real – Jews are the unobtrusive lot south of Piccadilly. But is this good enough? The answer must be no, for we want so much more: to be acknowledged and celebrated in our loud Jewishness and fierce commitment to civil society; to be cherished in our rainbow diversity as Jews, and as part of the won