COUNTRY AND CITY IN THE NEW EUROPE. Eve Dadan-Smith. Department of Anthropology University of Chicago 1126 East 59th Street Chicago, IL

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COUNTRY AND CITY IN THE NEW EUROPE Eve Dadan-Smith Department of Anthropology University of Chicago 1126 East 59th Street Chicago, IL You can dream about a place this beautiful. Or you can visit
COUNTRY AND CITY IN THE NEW EUROPE Eve Dadan-Smith Department of Anthropology University of Chicago 1126 East 59th Street Chicago, IL You can dream about a place this beautiful. Or you can visit England. United Airlines can make Britain a reality for you this year. Introduction Central to the rise of the modern nation-state in the 19th century was the creation of powerful and stable city-centers through which any one government could establish political consolidation and the means of disciplinary control. In particular, capital cities organized the surrounding countryside and centralized the political frontiers between one national people and another. In this paper, I reflect upon the continuing significance of both capital and second-level cities in constructing images of nationalism in England. A central concern is how connections between cities and statehood may be altered by today's so called 'global cities' which are in a sense being loosened from their national contexts. Through specific reference to the City of London, and its relational opposite, the southern English countryside, I reflect upon the moving spatial reconfigurations in Europe between city-centers and their concentric peripheries, and what this suggests about the enduring stability of member-states. A critical feature is the extent that London, emblematic of Englishness and English governance, is increasingly participating in legal, political and economic practices located in Brussels which detract from its symbolism as a national center. Illustrating this, I briefly discuss the proposed high-speed rail link between London, Pads, Brussels, Cologne and Amsterdam, of which the Channel Tunnel is a part. The fast train's destruction of the southern English countryside is a symbolic instance of the widespread altering of relations between the City of London and its surrounding state context. How peripheral - provincial - English cities are reacting to London's participation in a wider Europe leads to my conclusion, where I point to the racial implications of these cities' retreat to a localized identity within an idealized rural landscape. Country and City The city is a cultural phenomenon. Amongst other things, it generates identity and articulates identification. Today, however, the sources through which such identity is mediated are unclear. Donatella Mazzoleni argues, as most notably has Raymond Williams in The Country and the City, that up until the industrial revolution the city defined itself and its spatial limits against the surrounding countryside, and so belonged to and situated itself as a central feature within a rural landscape (Mazzoleni 1993:293; Williams 1973:). Today, according to Mazzoleni, the city has no perceptual limits or clear territorial boundaries, and 'since it reaches the horizon, the metropolis is * Research for this paper was supported by doctoral dissertation grants from the National Science Foundation (No. SES ) and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. a habitat without a 'somewhere else'. It is therefore, a total interior' (Mazzoleni 1993:298)1. By implication, the countryside in the constitution of today's major cities no longer features. In this paper I explore the possible meanings of this 'total interior' within cities in England. By necessity, I differentiate between types and symbolisms cities embody which are generally, but not necessarily, connected to respective city size. Hence I contrast the City of London, the nation's capital, with second-tier peripheral cities such as Manchester and Newcastle which are currently in the process of planned revitalization. This comparison highlights the extent images of poverty, houselessness, racial tension, and ethnic segregation circulate around the concept of London, once the central emblem of England and English power. Heightening the sense of London's internal fragmentation is the increasing characterization of it as a 'global city' rather than England's national capital (Sassen 1991, 1994a). Under the shadow of the European Community, London, despite open governmental resistance by Prime Minister John Major and his band of Eurosceptics, is being forced to open out and accommodate new hierarchies of power and new networks of politics, economics, and communication. What I hope to show is that this expansionism silences the significance of the countryside in the global city, thus redefining the country/city dichotomy and not, as Mazzoleni intimates, obliterating it. In contrast to London's increasingly scattered horizons, England's second-level cities are reigning in their boundaries. According to the Arts Council of Great Britain, these second cities are reconstructing their cultural base and in the process undergoing an 'urban renaissance'. My concern here is not so much in the actual extent of this so-called 'renaissance', but in the explicit significance of the countryside in defining these second-city identities. What becomes apparent is that in a symbolic and ideological sense, the countryside is being intentionally brought inside these city interiors. In other words, the urban renaissance is predicated upon and constituted through an English country mythology despite the fact that topological distinctions between country and city have in many cases been dissolved by sprawling suburbanization. What this examination of images of countryside within newly conceived city interiors suggests is a deep level of anxiety about current English society. Romanticized evocations of the country provide a pre-modern sense of security, intimacy and community made even more potent when held up against popularized understandings of corrupt and decayed London. A poignant illustration of the City of London's decline is the proposed fast rail link joining it to Paris and Brussels. The fast rail link, and the building of the Channel Tunnel on which it depends, has raised heated political debates in England both for and against the new physical and symbolic connections between the nation and the European mainland. Significantly, in joining up European cities, the fast rail link slices through intervening countrysides and diminishes the importance of open lands in the spacing and defining of cities and states. In England, the reduction of the countryside as a form of buffer zone, coupled with the prospect of open borders articulated through negotiations such as the Schengen agreement, poses the threat of invading immigrant aliens whom (it is widely presumed) will steadily speed onwards to London. What these public debates about the Channel Tunnel make clear is the extent postcolonialism's cultural implications. the return of the excluded other to the nation's metropolis - overlay London's global restructuring and the future of its transnational integration into the Community. Against the sense of the breaking down of London as the embodiment of a controlled, ordered and leading national center grounded within a rural landscape, I examine the current nostalgic revitalization of the term 'country' as a means of redefining regional cities within England. What I suggest is that images of the countryside - a rural aesthetics - is being explicitly used as a marker of difference between peripheral English cities and the symbolically decayed City of London which appears to have no surrounding country. Providing an ideological and political strategy in the rebuilding of local centers and the creating of a sense of local autonomy, rural aesthetics emphases the extent English cities are rejecting London as the representative of national, regional and local interests. Thus above all, images of countryside point to a perceived and underlying need by local governments and the wider English population to cordon off, distance, and in a sense avoid London's chaotic and ethnically plural (postcolonial and global) interior. An Urban Renaissance The Arts Council, the cultural branch of the British government, published in 1987 a document entitled 'An Urban Renaissance: The Role of Arts in Urban Regeneration' (Arts Council 1987). According to Kevin Robins, this is a 'superficial and opportunist document, reflecting the 'can do' attitude of the Arts Council in the face of the new enterprise logic Its key terms - enterprise, renaissance, culture, image, community - reflect an optimism for our times' (Robins 1993: 307). With the expressed goal to regenerate urban life and redevelop deprived areas associated with modernism alienating concrete architecture and urban programs of the 1960s, the document sets out to 'rebuild communities' and 'provide focal points for community pride and identity' (Arts Council 1987). Reflected throughout the document is a rather schematic chronology from modernism to postmodernism. This informs the negative depiction of modernisms instrumental functionalism which created large impersonal public buildings and resulted in the severing of identity from place. Such negativity is then contrasted with a positive postmodern vision of the need to reverse this process and reinstate the individual within a community. This simplistic inversion informs much debate about the character of architecture and development policy in Britain in the 1990s. The accommodation of multiculturalism and a politics of identity, a return to local and regional styles, a sense of intimacy, and attention to history is touted by architects and governmental bodies as the new direction in sensitive urban planning (see Cooke 1988:114). As David Ley has argued with respect to postmodernism: In contrast to the isotropic space of modernism, post-modem space aims to be historically specific, rooted in cultural, often vernacular, style conventions, and often unpredictable in the relation of parts to the whole. In reaction to the large scale of the modem movement, it attempts to create smaller units, seeks to break down a corporate society to urban Villages, and maintain historical associations through renovation and recycling (Lay 1989:53). Explicit in Lay's curious compound 'urban villages' is the concern for rootedness, authenticity, and a nostalgic romanticism of a bygone era. What exactly an urban village would look like is difficult to say. But its potency lies in the evocation of recycled images of a pre-industrial, rural and pastoral lifestyle which point to 'the yearning for a simpler, more harmonious style of life, and existence 'closer to nature (Marx 1964:6). The mythology of the rural countryside, where people supposedly operate in a communal spirit of friendship and neighborliness, runs deep in the English identity and psyche. Of course the concept of the country, like the city, is a moving and multifaceted symbol of both positive and negative implications. But as Keith Thomas has noted, by the late 17th and early 18th centuries town-dwellers had started to idealize the country cottage and project a presumption of health and morality in its inhabitants in contrast to the vices found in cities (Thomas 1983:248). By the end of the 19th century it was London, with its swollen middle classes and imperial economic dominance over a declining industrial north, which focused the form of this rural idealization. In fact it was London's expanding imperial designs (and the concerns of anthropology in oral customs and cultures) that provided the impetus for an inward-looking movement known as English Folk Revival (see generally Boyes 1993). Robert Coils claims that this revival 'represented a flight away from external threats deep into the nation's racial and rural essence' (Coils 1986:47). And in this surge of interest in England's interior, Alun Howkins interestingly argues that the English countryside surrounding London established certain yardsticks of 'rurality' by which the rest of the national landscape came to be measured. This 'south country' was essentially a fantasized landscape of quasi-tudor thatched cottages, village greens, church spires, small cultivated fields and manicured hedgerows in which the wilderness of the Yorkshire moors or the flint cottages of Cornwall had no place (Howkins 1986:54). While Howkins does not expand his analysis beyond the 1920s, what is fascinating is the extent 'south country' images still predominant today as the essential features of a readily recognized national - and racially homogenous - landscape. Raymond VVilliams discusses the significance of the village ideal as a 'knowable community', epitomizing direct relationships and face-to-face contacts in contrast to the alienating qualities of the industrial metropolis (Williams 1973:165-81; see for early sociological analysis of the alienating city Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West, 1928:85-186; Georg Sirereel Metropolis and Mental L/re, 1950: ). The village supposedly spoke of mutual responsibility and a sense of community duty, values which served to veil great economic disparities between a landed gentry and the majority of feudal based tenant farmers. For above all, Williams argues, the imagined village represented a certain consciousness about social hierambles, class divisions, morality, and order (W!liams 1973:165-6; see also Thomas 1983:243-53). Curiously this consciousness appealed to both the possibility of the return to a golden paternal age, where lords cared for their own, and an advance towards a classless community who equally share in the burdens and benefits of 'back to the land' agricultural programs (see Howkins 1986:75-6). Today such community ideals are invoked and reanimated as part of a political program seeking to tap into the mythology of England's glorious past. It appears in public debate, such as Prince Charles' reflections on architecture and landscape and his declaration that 'man seems to function best in small, recognizable units - hence the village - where he is part of a community of people to which he can relate' (Jencks 1988)2. Arid it appears in public policy, such as Prime Minister John Major's misguided 'back to basics campaign which advocated the return to an archaic image of the family and neighborly values, and in Major's approach to Europe with such declarations that Britain, even within the European Community, will remain a nation of small villages, green commons, local shops and warm beer (Guardian 23 April 1993). The fact that the government's withdrawal of finances, transport and local services throughout the 1980s has seriously undermined the power of local government and so the future of many villages is deftly overlooked. What remains of this 'posthumous zone' is a 'green tranquillity buoyed up by Sainsbury's and the property market' (Guardian 18 Aug. 1994:16). Even in remote areas, such as the wilds of Romney Marsh on the Kent coast, small villages like Lydd are plagued by vandalism, drugs, violence and high unemployment. One result of this idealization of a village-spotted countryside is a recharging of contrasting imagery linked to the city. But as Raymond Williams has tried to show, we must not limit ourselves to simple contrasts between country and city, but 'go on and see their interrelations and through these the real shape of the underlying crisis' (Williams 1973:297). In presenting the countryside as increasingly valued and vulnerable, there is a sense that the city is proportionately more violent and threatening (Ruhe 1979:112). The city is wild and out of control. This sentiment carries with it the sense that those disrupting community harmony should be excluded and expelled. And it marks the essential difference between the utopian 'garden city' movement in England at the turn of the century by social reformers such as Ebenezer Howard, who sought to establish community within the city, with current events where a sense of community is posited against the city. Hence today it is not a matter of replacing the manor house with a community health center, as planned in the past by Howard, but of re-establishing the ideal of the village green and the local comer store outside the city - and by implication the parochialism of a closed provincial community (on Howard see Jacobs 1961:18). The reference to city 'wilderness' primarily refers to London and large urban centers. These are the municipalities which are no longer contained by reference to local histories and local communities, and in fact strive to transcend their immediate environment by competing in the networks, technologies and services of the so-called global economy. These are the cities who seek the status of global city'. By contrast, the majority of regional English cities have taken a very different strategy. These smaller centers have adopted a local economic approach which seeks to make places, communities, neighborhoods and cities less dependent upon global economic premises and to develop local resources (Bohm 1994:109). These cities are in many cases under programs and policies of rejuvenation, and local governmental attempts to inscribe them with a feeling of community identity is a means of asserting independence from London. Under the auspices of the heritage industry, these smaller cities are marketing themselves as protectors of an English heritage promulgated through local histories, local politics, and local economies (see Montgomery 1990). London, on the other hand, is left to draw upon the wider and increasingly ambiguous idea of nation and the national identity as the source of its cultural characterization. A great deal more could be said about the pastoral village and country idyll (see for instance Mingay 1989; Williams 1973:13-34). What is critical here is the English reappropriating of village imagery - and its historical trappings of an ordered, bordered, community sensibility - is occurring at the very moment when the idea of city is most confusing and ambiguous, particularly in the context of the new Europe (see Schoonbrodt 1994:85)3. The Green Paper for European Cities, put by the Commission before the Council and the European Parliament in 1990, acknowledges that cities are now experiencing deep environmental and planning crises (see Hastaoglou-Martinidis et al. 1993). These crises, which point to such things as new technologies, post-industrial economic restructuring and a mobile labor force raise the doubt whether 'city' adequately describes new forms of urban conglomeration seen to be devoid of a cultural identity or center (Green Paper 6-7). One response has been the allocation of limited EC structural funds to those European cities who demonstrate a commitment to the enhancing of their local communities. Within England, this perceived need to reconstruct and redefine the city has been exploited by some of the more enterprising local governments. Following a logic of enterprise and opportunism established by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, a number of cities have made direct appeal to Brussels and set up their own corporate offices there. This has established the frame for European cities to develop the concept of a 'Europe of the cities', and organize urban networks such as Eurocities. Some analysts have argued that as a result, 'The former ports of Barcelona, Marseille, Glasglow or Genoa have much more to say to each other than to their capitals' (Guardian 21 Feb. 1995:20). Thus regeneration projects that have helped establish initiative's such as Liverpool's idea of being the City of Learning, Glasglow's City of Culture program, Manchester's G Mex, Swansea's Maritime Quarter and so on have been primarily aided by EC structural funds rather than the British government4. Sheffield, for instance, is seeking to be the venue for the next meeting of European leaders. The chief executive of Sheffield, John Hambidge, pointed out that European funding had helped pay for the supertram, the restored Lyceum theater, and the Arena stadium. 'Holding the summit here', Hambidge said, 'might demonstrate to European politicians that their money has been appre
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