Search By



  

Editorial

Abstract
By : Ayona Datta

 
HOME, MIGRATION, AND THE CITY: SPATIAL FORMS AND PRACTICES IN A GLOBAL ISING WORLD
The dynamics of globalisation as the increasing interconnectedness between all aspects of social, cultural, economic, and political spaces have seen an unprecedented focus on migrants across the world. Far less discussed though has been the connections between spaces and places during migration - how conceptualisations of proximity/distance, inside/outside; native/migrant; past/present; memories/experiences produce and shape buildings, streets, and urban environments. While it is suggested that the unprecedented movement of people in a globalising world will be particularly significant for cities and urban life, it is also argued that such movement has led to a problematisation of 'home' as a particular type of built form in a physical location. This special issue is therefore interested in making the links between three important processes in a globalising world - home, migration, and the city - and their significance for built forms and built environments across the world. While migration has been a highly politicised issue for many nation states, it can be argued that studies of migration have traditionally focussed on disempowered and disembodied migrants who are forced or coerced to move across national boundaries. Such perceptions have led to the understanding of migration as a unidirectional process, enacted from sending to receiving countries - with migrants attempting in various ways to adapt to the latter. Within the built environment disciplines, this understanding of migration generated studies of 'migrant neighbourhoods' and 'migrant architectures' as 'authentic' reproductions of a home left behind in physical and metaphoric terms. Recent movements of people across the world however, suggest a more complex picture - indeed migrants are far more engaged in their own mobility, making strategic decisions in order to capitalise on their social and cultural capital and gain access to new spaces of social and political power. In this sense, we need to recognise an unevenness of migrant experiences, where certain types of migrations are facilitated by regional citizenships such as that of the EU, and certain types of migrants such as professional and middle-class elites are actively 'desired' by various nation- states. Attempts in the built environment disciplines to understand these new forms of migrations have focussed on the architectures of 'non-places' (Auge, 1995) such as airports and train stations where the hypermobilities of elite migrants are visibly practiced. Dualisms between migrants neighbourhoods of poor working-class migrants in receiving countries, and the nonplaces of elite 'hyperglobalisers' (Held et al, 1999) present us with conceptual limitations in understanding contemporary built forms and spatial practices as part of a larger complex and interconnected process of migration. Home is simultaneously a material and symbolic place, located in various imaginations of the past, present, and future. For migrants, 'home' is a process that involves 'imagining, creating, unmaking, changing, losing, and moving homes' (Al-Ali and Koser 2002: 6). For most migrants, making a 'home' in a new environment implies new forms of interactions with buildings and places - it involves understanding new cultures of building technologies and materials, enacting new kinds of spatial practices, new forms of attachments, and new kinds of social relationships. Moving homes involves an active engagement with its material cultures - photographs, memorabilia, furniture, and so on. Moving home also involves building and inhabiting a built form that reflects one's journey - of movement and settlement across borders, territories and spaces. During movement, these built forms and architectures of homes become invested with 'heightened material and conceptual significance' (Cairns 2004: 30), making them important bases for cultural understandings of relatedness. Conceived in this way, the built form of the migrant home comes together in a set of practices, enacted in different space(s)-time(s), through the deployment of particular resources to produce and create a domestic environment - finding/ building a place to live, inhabiting this place, and moving into and out from this place. Home, both in its material and metaphorical forms thus becomes fundamental to migrants' experiences of belonging, negotiating, and adapting to new spaces and places. Cities, often as places of origin and resettlement, are central to the physical manifestations of home and migration. In these places, migrants, through their everyday practices, can be seen as contributing to the production of multiple and divergent forms of urban landscapes - through shops, neighbourhoods, places of worship, markets and so on. Yet, migrant architectures in cities often produce powerful and exclusionary politics around citizenship, democracy, and belonging. This has been illustrated by Mitchell (2004) through the contestations over architectural styles of 'monster houses' built by Chinese immigrants in an elite Vancouver suburb. Architectural styles of migrant houses also produce contested debates on ethical and professional responsibilities among urban architects and planners such as demonstrated by Klaufus (2006) in the case of return migrants in Ecuador. On the other hand, certain cities, urban spaces, and neighbourhoods have been conceived, produced and marketed as cosmopolitan spaces through the inclusion of 'authentic' built forms and environments catering to migrants (Binnie and Skeggs 2004). Under such circumstances, cities have become sites of powerful politics around migration, multiculturalism, inclusion, belonging, and the construction of home. Migrant homes are thus neither a straightforward function of 'authentic migrant cultures'; nor can we link specific built forms to particular types of migrants. As Cairns (2004) reminds us, the dichotomies between an 'architecture by migrants' that manifests in migrant neighbourhoods and cosmopolitan urban environments, and an 'architecture for migrants' that manifests in refugee camps, retention centres, have produced dichotomies in the understanding of homes and cities. Architectures and built environments are tied to global movements of capital and people within and across territories and regions, and to a 'global sense of home' (Massey 2000) that is 'sutured into a relationally linked range of localities' (Jacobs 2004: 167). Conceived in this way, built forms are one of the many parameters that affect migrant experiences and spatial practices, and at a more local scale, become one of the most visible markers of the global exchange of people and capital. The articles in this special issue seek to illustrate this crucial point. The dynamics of globalisation adds a new spatial perspective to built environments in different cities. Bar-Sinai illustrates this through London's second homes. She suggests that with the movement of elites across the world, spatio-temporality of dwelling has become an increasingly urban phenomenon. The relative ease with which global elites are able to move and acquire properties across the world means that urban second homes turn their owners into temporal occupants of several built environments and built forms simultaneously. They also reveal an emerging pattern within global cities - as inner-city housing becomes less affordable to many urban citizens, it becomes even more desirable among a select group of elite migrants. Chang investigates such preferences among Asian/Latino migrants in Washington DC area. She suggests that while the search for a home reflects a personal and cultural journey for these migrants, their preferences represent a hybrid version of the American dream which combines both the urban and suburban imaginary. Both Bar- Sinai and Chang present policy and design implications of the changing nature of and immigrant expectations from urban environments as they suggest the interconnectedness between urban/suburban and urban/rural during contemporary migrations across the world. Such transformations of urban built environments and landscapes are further explored in Marinelli's article on the Chinese port city of Tianjin. Tracing its history since the past 150 years, Marinelli suggests that Tianjin has transformed from a colony of nine foreign-controlled concession neighbourhoods to a globalising contemporary city undergoing massive renovation programmes. As this city was reshaped by its many colonisers, each produced their own architectural styles in their concession zones - and transformed these zones into images of their respective 'homes'. Marinelli shows that as contemporary Tianjin undergoes a new programme of transformations, these 'migrant' architectures have been internalised into a re-writing of Tianjin's history as a world-class 'Chinese' city. The significance of Marinelli's analysis lies in providing a new perspective of colonisers as migrants who become transformative agents in connecting the past with the present in production of globalising cities. Thus, built environments as part of globalisation can be understood as a solidification of 'cultural flows in place' (Hannerz 1993: 68) and of the interconnectedness between homes, migrants, and cities from the past to the present. This understanding of built environments as a dynamic process offers ways to conceive of built forms as continuously in motion. As people move across spaces and places, they carry with them cultural and material understandings of places, which are continuously in the making. The inhabitations of such migrants in different places across the world produce new types of buildings and urban environments that are continuously revisited, renegotiated and transformed. Thus places and architectures make references not to any 'authentic' home.........

This is An Abstract to read the whole article login.......

 

 

 

© www.openhouse-int.com - All Rights Reserved