Tag Archives: cosmopolitanism

Summer Institute in Urban Studies 2014 – Some Reflections!

Elnaz Ghafoorikoohsar (SEED), Gwyneth Lonergan (SoSS) and Elisa Pieri (SoSS) reflect on their participation in the first Summer Institute in Urban Studies …

cities@manchester’s Summer Institute in Urban Studies took place last (30 June – 4 July) at the University of Manchester. The twenty eight participants – selected out of the 180 plus applicants – came from across the UK, Europe, Australia and North America, and brought with them a wide variety of research interests and experience. What united them was a keen interest in cities, whether in Europe, the United States, Africa, East Asia or the Indian Subcontinent.

Participants get to work!

The Institute provided an excellent opportunity for lively discussion on many of the pressing theoretical issues in urban studies today, including notions of urban assemblages, policy mobilities and the worlding of different cities, various forms of gentrification, sustainability, sustainable development, and climate change, and politics and post-politics in the city. Many speakers discussed the various methodological implications of studying the urban, and how to engage in academic practice that is ethically and politically responsible and accountable. Ultimately, we were interested in thinking reflexively about the future of urban studies and our role in the field. We were fortunate to hear presentations from leading urban studies scholars, both from within and from outside of the University of Manchester. These included speakers working outside of academia, in NGOs and in policy circles. Manchester’s own experience of post-industrial regeneration provided a case study, with a panel of speakers on this topic and a walking tour of East Manchester regeneration sites.

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The Institute also gave participants a chance to consider many of the challenges facing early career researchers, including interdisicplinarity, different publication formats and strategies, ethical dimensions of academic research and practice, and engagement with stakeholders outside of academia. A large component of the program was devoted to professional development – for example, effective teaching, and curricular development, writing funding applications, securing a post following completion of the PhD, and planning a career trajectory. Many participants found this career guidance especially valuable, as they had not received any such advice as PhD students. Moreover, with participants coming from a wide variety of countries, it allowed us to exchange information and ideas about the different national research cultures and expectations.

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The week was intense with participants enthusiastically engaged with all of the sessions, and we also enjoyed a friendly, sociable atmosphere.   The program allowed participants to explore issues with peers at a similar career stage as well as with more experienced academics, in a supportive environment. There was achieved through a mixture of both formal and informal opportunities for discussion and socialising. Many of these were classroom based, although highly varied, including a daily plenary as well as smaller workshops. Participants were expected to play an active role, completing preparatory reading in addition to chairing a panel, or acting as discussants. These activities were complemented by the walking tour, and the use of multimedia materials, including film, to stimulate discussion. An ‘official’ institute dinner was held at Yang Sing on the Thursday evening, but there were plenty of other opportunities for informal after hours socialising. Even as the Institute ended on Friday, there were already plans being made among many participants for future collaborations.

 

On Manchester Chinatown

Elena Barabantseva, School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester, write about Manchester’s chinatown …

Yet again this year Manchester’s city centre was a stage for Chinese New Year Celebrations, making it a perfect occasion for a family day out to experience a different culture. Manchester Chinatown is one of the major tourist attractions in the city and is considered to be the most vibrant Chinese quarter in the country, but how did it become part of the city’s architectural and cultural fabrics?

With the seedcorn funding from cities@manchester I was able to conduct an archival study on the origins of Chinatown and a series of interviews with the members of Manchester’s Chinese community organisations. What emerged from this pilot research is that the origins of Manchester Chinatown are somewhat paradoxical. From the first wave of migration in the early twentieth century, the Chinese have been the most geographically dispersed migrant group in the UK due to the nature of their occupations, first in laundries and then in take-away restaurants. Yet, the dominant social perception of the Chinese as a closely-knit and inward-looking community has persisted until the present day.

The early Chinese residents in Manchester were far from an insular community. They actively integrated into the city. An article in the Manchester Guardian in February 1912 estimates the total number of Chinese immigrants in Manchester to be around one hundred and comments on their life in the following way:  ‘They are mainly Cantonese, and when they land at Liverpool they can speak little or no English. The Manchester Wesleyan Mission (8 Cable street), under the direction of the Rev. S. F. Collier, has carried on work amongst them. A New Year’s party was held last evening at the Albert Hall’ (Manchester Guardian, ‘Chinese in Manchester’, 20 Feb 1912). In the pre-Second World War period, the local community efforts to interact with the newly arrived immigrants were paralleled by the furnishing links between Manchester and China at the national level. The pre-war textile boom in Manchester prompted strengthening links with China, and for the first time in 1933 the Chinese Kuomintang government appointed a consular representative to Manchester to oversee the day-to-day trade links with China with an office in Spring Gardens in Central Manchester (Manchester Guardian, ‘China comes North’, 11 February 1933). In 1942 The Universities China Committee in London, with the funds from the Boxer rebellion (1898-1901) indemnity, established Manchester China Institute on George street to ‘provide a place where British people could meet Chinese people and learn from them in various ways’ (Manchester Guardian, ‘China Institutes: A new one for Manchester, 11 May 1942). These facts testify to the vibrant official and community-based links which existed between China and Manchester in the early twentieth century.

In the post-World War Two period Chinese migrants keenly settled in the city and its suburban areas to satisfy British tastes for Chinese culinary.  In a parallel development, an increasing number of Chinese businesses started opening in Central Manchester, with the first Chinese restaurant Ping Hong opening its doors on Mosley Street in 1948. Recalling the origins of Manchester Chinatown, senior Chinese residents unequivocally assert that ‘there was no Chinatown in Manchester in the 1970s’. Yet, 8y the mid-1970s the local newspapers were announcing that a Chinatown was emerging in central Manchester bounded by George, Nicholas, Faulkner, and Princess Streets. By the early 1980s, the geographical and socio-cultural place of Chinatown in Manchester was secured when in 1983 Manchester City Library added the entry “Chinatown” to its catalogue of newspaper clippings.

In the 1980s Manchester Chinatown boomed, when in the span of less than ten years key community organisations and societies were set up in the quarter: Chinese Cultural and Education Centre in 1979, the Chinese Arts Centre in 1986, Tong Sing Chinese Housing Association in 1984, Wai Yin Chinese Women’s Society in 1988, and Chinese Health Information Centre in 1987. The symbolic birth of Chinatown culminated in 1987, when the Chinese Imperial Arch, physically marking the area’s association with the Chinese community, was erected on Faulkner street.

The early 1980s also witnessed an active lobbying by Chinese community leaders of the City authorities to clearly mark the boundaries of the Chinatown by translating the names of the streets into Chinese and displaying street signs in Chinese characters: ‘It may not be long now before you can walk up the Street of Capturing Blessings, turn left into the Street of Fairy Happiness and end up in the heart of Manchester’s Chinatown…. Faulkner Street would become Fuk-Ngar Gai (street of capturing Blessing) and Charlotte street Sar-Lok Gai (Street of Fairy Happiness)’ (Manchester Evening News, Comment ‘Turning into the Street of Happiness’, 21 February 1983). The attempts to translate the names of the streets into Chinese were stalled in June 1985, when the City Council designated this area as a ‘George street conservation area’ where ‘signs should be designed and located so as not to compete with the architectural details of buildings’ (Manchester City Council, no date). The value attached to the history of the area took an upper hand over contemporary social trends.

A quick browse through the historical maps of Manchester city centre from the collection of Manchester Museum of Science and Industry confirms that the area of Manchester’s Chinatown developed in the Georgian times, and the layout and names of the streets haven’t changed since the 18th century. Until the early 19th century, this district was a well-to-do residential area, centred on St James’ church built at 7 Charlotte street in 1786 and demolished in 1928. The pattern of streets and street names are the only surviving witnesses to the layers of time which shaped and transformed this area of the city. A cluster of important societies and institutions also operated in the area, including Literary and Philosophical Society at 36 George street. Portico Library was opened in the area at 57 Moseley street in 1806 and still occupies its original site. Royal Manchester Institute was built on Moseley Street between 1824 and 1835 in the Greek neo-classical style and now hosts the City Art Gallery, and the Athenaeum, a club for a society for ‘advancement and diffusions of knowledge’ was founded on Princess street in 1835 and is now linked to the Art Gallery.

By the end of the 1990s, Chinese organisations and initiatives which were founded and started their activities in Manchester Chinatown in the 1980s started relocating to other parts of the city.  Most notably, The Chinese Arts Centre moved to the Northern Quarter and was recently renamed into the The Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Fo Guang Shan Temple moved to Trafford, Manchester Chinese Centre re-established in Ardwick, and the Wai Yin Chinese Women’s Society moved to Ancoats. Chinese supermarkets are not limited to the Chinatown anymore and can be found in many different locations around Manchester. These processes point to the moving and changing character of Chinatown, what Doreen Massey coins as a continuous process of ‘multiple becoming’. The dominant perspective on Chinatowns around the world refers to them as ‘ethnic enclaves’, yet the dynamic history and ongoing transformations of Manchester’s Chinatown show that it embraces multiple histories, contested present, and an open future.  The physical demarcations of Chinatown are less important than social processes and experiences which both define and escape the attempts to pin down Chinatown’s spatial and cultural demarcations.

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

 

 

Where is Amsterdam?

Professor Erik Swyngedouw at the University of Manchester reflects on how the current city of Amsterdam is different from the one he used to visit in the late 1970s and early 1980s and what that might say about the new geographical co-ordinates of political possibilities.

Amsterdam takes a very special and privileged position in my intellectual trajectory. As a young and radical planning student in Belgium in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the stale, dogmatic, antiquated and plainly stifling intellectual and cultural environment that characterized much of academic and urban life in my native Belgium at the time contrasted sharply with the exuberantly liberating, exhilarating and radical thought and associated urban practices that came in as a whirlwind from the Netherlands and, in particular, from Amsterdam.

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Je kan er boeken kopen You can buy books there
Die je hier heel zelden vindt that you rarely find here
Je kan er langs de grachten lopen You can stroll along the canals
Je haar los in de wind Hair loose in the wind
…. ….
Je bent er vogelvrij You are free as a bird there
Omdat er alles kan Because everything is possible there
Zo dichtbij en toch zo ver is Amsterdam So near and yet so far is Amsterdam

(Amsterdam by Kris De Bruyne – 1975)

As Kris De Bruyne sung in his ode to Amsterdam, it is a place where you can buy books you rarely find here (in Belgium at the time), where one could set thought free. And he was absolutely right. Amsterdam in those exiting times was for me a place worthy of an odyssey. Many a times, I ventured onto the Brussels-Amsterdam train to scout out the new ideas, to browse the censored thoughts freely available on Amsterdam’s bookshelves, to feel the winds of change, to touch the freewheeling and radical air in which Amsterdam bathed. Provo had staged its early situationist urban performances in Amsterdam, later the ‘Kabouters’ marched into the city-government, white bikes roamed the street, new lifestyles were experimented with, squatters questioned capitalist housing politics and budding neoliberal forms of urban renovation. A truly emancipatory and progressive political movement was engulfing the urban world, and Amsterdam was its cradle. Many of the thoughts and perspectives that would mature in my later academic work found their early hesitant and embryonic formulations in the cafes, bookstores and intellectual engagement with Amsterdam’s young left intellectuals and activists.

Thirty odd years later, and after many returns to my beloved Amsterdam, I feel increasingly alienated by the city, a whiff of nostalgia to a lost dream and a melancholic dread permeates my body and mind when drifting along Amsterdam’s streets and canals. Sure, it still is a great city, a global cosmopolitan urbanity that feels like a village. The quirky sites and unexpected corners are still there, but the city’s soul, its mojo seems to have decamped. Amsterdam today is boring, uninspiring. Creative and progressive intellectual thought – although still brewing in some of the remaining interstices –  stifled, xenophobia rising, neoliberal austerity visibly present, new forms of uninspiring urbanity – like Amsterdam Zuidas –  became stale ruins even before their completion. Urban life seems cosy (at least for most), insular, self-referential, inward-looking. The sense of exuberance, of endless possibilities, of nurturing egalitarian freedom sustained by a solidarity-enhancing mode of being-in-common seems to have been replaced by technocratic management, the bio-political dominance of accountancy spreadsheets, the tyranny of the commodity-form, and a sense of collective impotence. Nothing seems possible anymore other than, at best, the humanitarian management of the excesses of the neoliberal nightmare. It does not take great foresight to see that the tensions, conflicts and spiralling inequalities that brew beneath the cobbled surface will soon and possibly violently explode again. Rarely do I hear Amsterdam’s urban intellectuals prefigure such dystopian futures. The few who do signal the unsustainability of today’s neoliberal political-economic hegemony, like Ewald Engelen’s relentless and incisive insistence on the perverse politics of neoliberalism, are shouts in the wind as much as Paul Krugman’s continuous lament of the American variant of the elite’s pursuit of neoliberal recipes. Unfortunately, on both sides of the Atlantic, the elite’s ears remain deaf for the warnings of such eminent scholars whose alarm signals they do not wish to register.

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I wonder where my Amsterdam is. I wonder whether the civic democratizing urbanity that has characterized Amsterdam’s urbanity throughout the centuries still slumbers underneath the elegant cobbled streets, in the after-rooms of the grand bourgeois houses and their neatly gentrified facades, in the immigrant neighbourhoods, or whether the spirit of Amsterdam has now forever decamped to the more exciting urbanities of Berlin, Barcelona, Istanbul, Madrid, Cairo, Sao Paulo, Sofia, Athens, or Thessaloniki, names that stand for me today for the cities that animate emancipatory desires, that ooze a spirit of possibility, where creative progressive thought and practice is actively experimented in. These are the names today of the places where citizens, city-dwellers, have become insurgent architects, where new forms of urban being-in-common are experimented with, where the powers-that-be shiver as the multitude takes to the streets and squares and stages performing new egalitarian modes of being-in-common. The city as a political polis, where insurgent citizens demand and stage the right to urbanity, the right to co-produce the city, seems to be alive and kicking in those places, but sadly moribund in Amsterdam.

Isn’t the most eloquent manifestation of this death of the urban the fact that the most radical recent guerrilla intervention in Amsterdam was the unauthorized placement of a copy of the Wall Street Bull by artist Arturo DiModica on Amsterdam’s Beursplein (Exchange Square), just a little while after the site was cleared off a small coterie of Occupy! activists, too small in numbers to even itch the powers that be or attract international attention. Is the Charging Bull’s presence – the triumphant symbol a victorious capital-financial order – not one of the most tell-tale signs of the symbolic re-appropriation of urban space by the 1%. While the square was cleared of its protesters, the unauthorized intrusion of the Bull was quickly legitimized and approved by the city administrators. Amsterdam’s elite made quite clear to all what the Beursplein and city politics stand for. Poor Amsterdam. I do long for the Amsterdam that helped me think and act as young and budding progressive intellectual, and which is undoubtedly still lurking somewhere. In the meantime, I think I shall keep going to Madrid, Istanbul, or Athens. See you there.

This blog was initially posed at the Centre for Urban Studies, University of Amsterdam (http://urbanstudies.uva.nl/blog/urban-studies-blog-series/urban-studies-blog-series/content/folder/where-is-amsterdam.html)

 

 

 

Statistical boundaries and small area data: something worth saving?

By Nissa Finney, CCSR, University of Manchester

Statistical and small area boundaries are invisible on the ground. Yet they shape the physical nature of cities because they demarcate areas that are governed. And they are part of the construction of places because they determine a space that has political representation, or is served by a care trust, or is provided with services by a particular local authority.

Statistical boundaries are ‘territorial units’ within the UK for which data are collected and collated by the national statistical agencies (Office for National Statistics in England and Wales, General Register Office for Scotland and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency). The Office for National Statistics (ONS) provides a useful guide to the geographical boundaries it works with (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/geography/beginner-s-guide/index.html). There are many types of sub-national boundaries for which small area data are produced – administrative, electoral, census, health, postal. And the boundaries within each of these types change frequently. For example, census boundaries change in an attempt to provide statistics that reflect geographical areas with some social meaning and amendments to electoral boundaries may reflect demographic change. Statistical boundaries both shape and reflect society.

In the UK, statistics are produced for very small areas. For example, census data are published for ‘Output Areas’. Output Areas have a recommended size of 125 households and are generated from data after the completion of each census. Output Areas are designed to have similar population sizes to each other and to be as socially homogenous as possible based on tenure of household and dwelling type. Output Areas are small enough to sit within larger boundaries and always fit exactly within local authority districts.

What kind of data can we get for these small areas? Good examples are provided by the Neighbourhood Statistics website, (http://www.neighbourhood.statistics.gov.uk/dissemination/) the portal through which ONS disseminates its small area data. By selecting the area you’re interested in, you can view hundreds of data tables on all kinds of topics drawn from census and other data that ONS manages. You can find out about population, education, health, work, deprivation and more for small areas. For example, we can see the area of the University of Manchester (Lower Super Output Area Manchester 018B; Figure 1). If we’re interested, for example, in immigration and diversity we can quickly learn that:

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  • 772 households live in this area
  • of the 2,802 residents over the age of 3 in 2011, 1,766 (63%) have English as their main language
  • 671 (23%) of the 2,893 residents have lived in the UK for less than 2 years
  • the three largest ethnic groups are White British (816; 28%), Chinese (478; 16%), Indian and Pakistani (215 or 7% each)

How might this type of data for small areas be used? Perhaps it is used by providers of health care or education in Manchester to tailor their services for their population. Perhaps it is used by the University to monitor how well it is engaging with the community within which it sits. Perhaps it is used by the local authority in population and economic forecasts. It is certainly used by academics interested in population change. For example, census data for small areas have been used in Dynamics of Diversity: Evidence from the 2011 Census Briefings produced by the ESRC Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE) in association with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. These analyses of census small area data have revealed increases in ethnic mixing residentially   (Simpson, L (2013); Catney, G. (2013), available at www.ethnicity.ac.uk). Indeed, such data allow us to identify places that are superdiverse, including Moss Side, the most diverse ward in Manchester district (Figure 2). They also allow us to examine where certain population groups have grown. For example, Figure 3 shows that, between 2001 and 2011, the populations of Pakistani, African and Other White ethnic groups in Manchester and Greater Manchester grew more in areas in which these groups were less concentrated than areas in which these groups were most concentrated in 2001.

Figure 2: Superdiversity in Moss Side, as shown by 2011 Census small area data

Figure 2: Superdiversity in Moss Side, as shown by 2011 Census small area data

Figure 3: Minority populations have grown most in parts of Manchester in which they were least clustered (as shown by Census 2011 small area data)

Figure 3: Minority populations have grown most in parts of Manchester in which they were least clustered (as shown by Census 2011 small area data)

In other words, these ethnic groups have spread out residentially in Manchester over the 2000s. To the contrary, the Chinese population in Manchester district and Greater Manchester grew most over the decade in wards in which it was most concentrated in 2001, perhaps reflecting a growth in the Chinese international student population who settle in the central parts of the city where other Chinese people already reside. These patterns tell us something interesting about how Manchester’s population is changing, and allow us to speculate about and investigate what’s driving these patterns of population change.

How else are small area data being used? Perhaps you have used them. Perhaps you have used them without realising their origins.

Now is an important time to think about how these small area data are used. That is because they are under threat. The Office for National Statistics is currently assessing alternatives to a census for producing population and small area socio-demographic statistics for England and Wales. The review programme is called ‘Beyond 2011’ (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/about-ons/what-we-do/programmes—projects/beyond-2011/index.html). The impetus comes from the Treasury (Treasury Select Committee report ‘Counting the Population’, May 2008) and the UK Statistics Authority who would like to see feasible and less costly alternatives to the census that will make the 2011 Census the last of its kind. This call to find a less costly alternative to the decennial census came prior to the 2011 census. The 2011 census has been widely acclaimed as the most successful in recent times; efficiently run, cost-effective and producing a breadth and depth of data that is world-leading. ONS will have a public consultation on its Beyond 2011 proposals between September and November 2013 and will put its recommendations to government in 2014.

The Beyond 2011 proposals may mean that small area data are not produced. It is a real possibility that the future data landscape in the UK will not include the world-leading breadth and quality of small area data that we currently enjoy.

If small area data are to be included in the Beyond 2011 recommendations the case for them needs to be made. There is a danger that small area data will be lost because they’re taken for granted; because they are used by many, but their origins and the efforts to produce them, and their world-leading quality are not necessarily recognised.

It is with this concern in mind that I urge you to consider the appeal by the Beyond 2011 Independent Working Group (Members of the Beyond 2011 Working Group are Piers Elias, Tees Valley Unlimited, and co-chair of Local Authorities’ liaison with central government on population statistics (CLIP); David Martin, Professor of Geography, University of Southampton, Deputy Director ESRC UK Data Service and National Centre for Research Methods; Paul Norman, Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Leeds; Phil Rees, Emeritus Professor of Population Geography, University of Leeds; Ludi Simpson, Professor of Population Studies, University of Manchester, President of the British Society for Population Studies). to provide examples of how you have used Census statistics, particularly for small areas (local authority level and below). These can be sent to ONS at benefits.realisation@ons.gsi.gov.uk and copied to the Independent Working Group at AreaStatistics@gmail.com. You may also want to respond to the ONS consultation in the Autumn.

Perhaps it is helpful to think about this is terms of what we won’t have, and what we won’t be able to do, if we don’t have small area data. If small area statistical boundaries and the information about population, health, housing, education, work, migration that they contain were not to exist, what would we not know about cities, and about how cities are changing? How would our understandings of contemporary cities be different without the backdrop of the world-leading quality small area data that we currently enjoy?

 

Migration and city making: An Integrated process

by Nina Glick Schiller, Director of the Research Institute for Cosmopolitan Cultures.

Truthfully, I find the debates around migration unbearable. They all seem so far away from the realities of migration and settlement. Literally nothing I hear and almost nothing I read seems to connect with what I have learned from my migrant grandparents and my family’s subsequent experience in settling in the United States, what I know about the children of migrant background with whom I grew up, the migrants from all over the world among whom I have lived and worked for decades, and my own experience of migration. When trying to understand what happens when people migrate to a new place -whether to seek a new job, a new life, flee from intolerable violence, or some combination of circumstances – neither the common sense of ordinary speech nor the seeming precise terms of academic debate even begin to describe the contingencies within which migrants live their lives. Nor does simply turning to migrants’ ‘voices’ suffice since migrants learn to describe their experiences within the key words that dominate contemporary political rhetoric.

I first learned about the confusion wrought by the key words in migration debates several decades ago when studying Haitian migration to New York City. My co-researchers of Haitian origin stated categorically that that Haitian immigrants settling in New York City followed one of two opposing pathways. Either these newcomers assimilated and ‘forgot about Haiti’ or they did not integrate into a new life because they only focused on return. Yet the lives of my co-researchers as well as our data challenged this dichotomy between integration and maintaining an affinity with one’s homeland and its culture. Instead what actually happened was that most people, including my co-researchers, simultaneously settled into their new life and maintained some of their cultural practices, and home ties and identity. All of my four co-researchers were settling into New York City, where they were busy with their jobs, homes, family networks, and multi-ethnic networks of friends. Yet they also maintained multiple ties to Haiti and to Haitians settled in other countries and continued to identify as Haitian.

The data from that study and numerous research projects in which I have engaged since then also challenges the notion prevalent that migrants adopt or fail to adopt a new national culture. For example, the ways in which my Haitian co-researchers lived this simultaneous settlement and transnational connections was locally specific. That is to say, their way of life was not generically Haitian or American but was shaped by the changing identity politics, types of racism, housing possibilities, urban renewal and employment and educational opportunities they found in New York City in the 1960-80s. Forms of migrant settlement and transnational connection are shaped by the specificities of time and place. These specificities do of course reflect national immigration laws and policies but within economic, political, and social contingencies that are also local and global. Yet these basic contingencies, which affect whether, how, and why migrants are able to settle and transnationally connect, are often ignored in the migration debates. Often politicians and scholars talk as if there is a national if not global understanding of the key words of migration.

My research indicates that there distinct and varying local understandings and policies in relationship to migrants in cities within the same nation-state. Terms such as refugee, immigrant, ethnicity, diversity, multicultural, religious community, melting pot, integration, social cohesion, and race are deployed in various ways in different cities in the same country and by different types of functionaries within the same city. Local understandings may differ dramatically from national debates reflecting differences in local politics, regeneration strategies, opportunity structures and history, as well as the class background, position, neighborhood of residence, gender, and generation of the speaker. Moreover, in each city there may be differences between the ways in which local officials, social service providers, and citizens interact with migrants and people of migrant background. Exploring these variations allows us to understand why migrants experience such mixed messages about inclusion and exclusion as they settle in a place. Using a city as an entry point allows us to begin to move away from the sweeping generalities that politicians bandy when they speak of the ‘failure of multiculturalism’ and the ‘refusal of migrant to integrate’.

Cities and within cities different urban neighbourhoods around the world vary in the degree to which they are ‘migrant friendly’- that is providing possibilities of people to move to them from other places from within a country and internationally and find opportunities to work, begin businesses, acquire an education including the dominant language of the country, and live in safety and without significant discrimination or racialisation. Cities that are open to newcomers and people of migrant background and welcome them as part of the city, rather than casting them as an indigestible lump within the body politic, benefit from migration. These cities are in fact built by the creativity, energy, and transnational connections of migrants in a process that extends across generations. Migrant friendly cites attract flows of capital, businesses, tourists, creative industries and talented individuals.

If those interested in the outcomes of migrant settlement were to set aside their preconceived notions that all migrants of a certain national or religious background stick together and form tightly organized communities, then they would be able to see that migrants develop an array of different settlement strategies. In many of these pathways of settlement, migrants form networks of interaction between themselves and more established residents, including people who identify themselves as ‘natives’ of the city and the nation-state. That is to say research on migrant settlement and personal narratives tell a different story than the national imaginary of migrants huddled everywhere in segregated or self-segregated ‘communities’.

In a situation where a city needs newcomers to contribute to its economy and cultural energy, public discourses and policies tend to differ from the national anti-immigrant polemics by being more open to immigrants. Cities of global renown such as London and New York are such places. Educated young people from all over the globe including Europe have flocked to London, for example, even in cases in which they have to live or work without proper documentation. They go to these ‘global cities’ because they find a sense of freedom and cultural energy there that they don’t think they can find elsewhere.

Cities that aspire to a cosmopolitan reputation on the global stage such as Manchester (UK) may also prove welcoming because they need migrants’ talents, education, and energies to fuel their efforts to rebrand themselves as up and coming and to compete for investors and new industries as well as tourism. Other cities, which are less competitive in terms of economic, political, or cultural power may provide a different array of advantages to some migrants and may in turn welcome migrants that provide hi tech talent, businesses for regenerated urban areas, or transnational connections that assist in regeneration efforts. In these globally less desirable cities, it may be the migrants who connect local residents to opportunities for education, travel, or economic opportunity located elsewhere.

While these processes are readily apparent to those who look and can be found in British, European, and North American cities as well globally from Dubai to Sao Paulo, this fundamental aspect of urbanism is being ignored most politicians and policy makers. My own research in cities in Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom as well interviews with city leadership conducted as part of a comparative city research project in diverse European cities reveal that those engaged in urban regeneration may see past generations of migrants as city builders. However, urban policy makers tend to see contemporary migrants as poor and at most lending a bit of exotic culture to efforts to rebrand their city.

Misguided policies emerge when contemporary migrants are seen as organized self-segregated communities that represent a challenge to social cohesion rather than as part of the talent and energy necessary for urban regeneration. Through their calls for social cohesion and integration directed at immigrants and people of migrant background, urban administrators and planners may reinforce false images of migrants as outsiders to urban life rather than part and parcel of the every day vitality of successful cities. Even more disastrously, in the name of integration, rather than addressing general conditions of impoverishment for local populations they may by provide services only in neighbourhoods identified as migrant, bypassing majority poor neighbourhoods. Such policies foster anti-immigrant rhetoric and movements.

To try to lend both specificity and comparability to research on migration and debates about it, I suggest that we need to see the cities, towns, and villages in which we live as places that are constantly being built and rebuilt overtime by all people who live there. If we think of the places and our society as always in process and always constructed by people who live in a place, we have a different and I believe better vantage point into the relationship between the movement of migration and the cohesion of established places and their social life.

Arriving from the United States four years ago, I settled in Manchester, became engaged in life local life and maintained transnational ties to family and friends elsewhere. My way of settling is not generically American but is shaped by what I find in both my city and country of settlement. I become part of my new city as the city becomes part of me. However, these days migrants, including myself, face a strange irony. Whilst our new city may be welcoming, nation-states including the UK have changed immigration laws so as to impose drastic limitations and costs on permanent settlement and family reunion. We find that we are increasingly criticized for not trying to belong to our new home and only concerned about our old, despite the fact that it has become increasingly difficult if not impossible for us to permanently settle.

Friends, colleagues, and acquaintances in Manchester, after noting I am not from the UK, frequently ask me if I am planning to stay. Although British citizens, they know nothing of their own country’s immigration laws nor do they acknowledge the impact of constant anti-immigrant hostility on immigrants’ identities, incorporation, or dreams for the future. Influenced by the immigration debate and its key words, the people I meet who don’t have immigrant backgrounds continue to see immigrants as having a choice to settle permanently and abandon their transnational ties or to return ‘home’. They continue to define immigrants’ retention of home ties, language, culture and beliefs as self-segregation, neither acknowledging the possibility of transnational lives or the fact that both legally and socially the UK increasingly makes it difficult for immigrants to permanently settle. As I said, I find the immigration debates unbearable.

Soundscapes in the City: forthcoming research

Rajinder Dudrah, Drama/Screen Studies. This blog post highlights new research that is currently being completed for a special issue of the journal Midland History. The article in question contends how understandings of cities and their cultural histories might be articulated through the notion of the ‘soundscape’ via a case study of British Bhangra music in the post-war East and West Midland city regions of the UK (1).

A familiar point in contemporary urban and cultural studies is that cosmopolitan cities are not just experienced through sight but through the other senses as well: sound, touch, taste and smell. Nonetheless , there is a need to explore more fully, not only the experience of a city through the senses as they happen in the contemporary moment, but also how we might be able to think about the formation of cities and regions as developing from a historical understanding of the formation of those senses too. A cultural history of the senses in a given time and place might illuminate for us the possible connections between different people and their inhabiting of place and space through sense formation. In my current research I have been particularly drawn to the investigation of how a sense of place and space might be considered through the sounds of popular music that circulate through the city – sound as heard and seen in the cityscapes as people use and move through the city; and as these sounds are created out of particular cultural histories in cosmopolitan settings. The case of the popular music genre of British Bhangra is an interesting one: it is a soundscape in and of multicultural British cities.

Bhangra

The idea of the soundscape is developed as articulating at least two of the senses simultaneously: sound and sight; and is developed inter-disciplinarily from work undertaken in cultural anthropology, popular music studies and cultural geography. Soundscapes allows us to think about the movement of people from different places of origin in new places of settlement, and how they not only produce popular music anew (i.e. music that is inflected through their routes of journeying), but also how they make this music through instances of their arrival and contemplated futures. Popular music is a distinctive type of sound that has socio-cultural meaning and position, and the study of diasporic music such as Bhangra can assist in understanding how social landscapes are formed over time and in places where the music has been produced locally and disseminated internationally. To this end, the forthcoming article offers an analysis of how a Punjabi folk music becomes a genre of popular music, particularly in the post-war British Midlands. It draws attention to key cities and regions namely Birmingham, Walsall and the Black Country, Derby, Nottingham, and Leicester, in terms of how they have sustained the cultural production of this music and its industry. The article offers a cultural historical account of how and why different musical genres are fused together in Bhangra (Punjabi Folk, RnB, Soul, Reggae, Grime, UK Pop, amongst others); provides a historical overview of some of the places, spaces and people key to the evolution of the music; and presents a textual analysis of some song lyrics and album cover artwork to elaborate this soundscape of the British Midlands.

1- Malcolm Dick and Rajinder Dudrah eds. (forthcoming September 2011) ‘Ethnic Community Histories in the Midlands’, Midland History, vol. 36, no.2. Article in this peer reviewed special issue: Rajinder Dudrah, ‘British Bhangra Music as Soundscapes of the Midlands’.

References and further reading: email cities [@] manchester.ac.uk