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18 Sennett 2 - A flexible city of strangers by Richard...

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14/01/09 18:07 A flexible city of strangers, by Richard Sennett Página 1 de 8 http://mondediplo.com/2001/02/16cities subscriptions back issues search maps If you appreciate LMD, please consider subscribing. February 2001 Contents The changing face of separatism Bowling alone, policing together * Deafening silence on depleted uranium * The chemical effects of DU Israeli withdrawal is the precondition for peace * Dubai, a sheikhdom happy to embrace globalisation Russia through the small screen Poland counts the cost * The individual in disarray * Narco-trafficking and war in the Andes * Peru pays International law and the developing world * Why are Israel’s offenders ignored? Universal values Nigeria’s flourishing home- video industry * A flexible city of strangers Lobbies derail climate accord * Why we need Kyoto Imagination and the fifth dimension * NEW CAPITALISM, NEW ISOLATION A flexible city of strangers Once people used to come to the city in search of anonymity, diversity and the freedom to meet others. Cities were also places of collective struggle and solidarity. Now, just as the workplace is affected by a new system of flexible working, so the city, too, risks losing its charm as businesses and architecture become standardised and impersonal. By Richard Sennett Cities can be badly-run, crime-infested, dirty, decaying. Yet many people think it worth living in even the worst of them. Why? Because cities have the potential to make us more complex human beings. A city is a place where people can learn to live with strangers, to enter into the experiences and interests of unfamiliar lives. Sameness stultifies the mind; diversity stimulates and expands it. The city can allow people to develop a richer, more complex sense of themselves. They are not just bankers or roadsweepers, Afro-Caribbeans or Anglo-Saxons, speakers of English or of Spanish, bourgeois or proletarian: they can be some or all of these things, and more. They are not subject to a fixed scheme of identity. People can develop multiple images of their identities, knowing that who they are shifts, depending upon whom they are with. That is the power of strangeness: freedom from arbitrary definition and identification. Writer Willa Cather was haunted in small-town America by the fear that her lesbianism would be discovered.
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14/01/09 18:07 A flexible city of strangers, by Richard Sennett Página 2 de 8 http://mondediplo.com/2001/02/16cities When she finally arrived in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1906, she wrote to a friend: "At last, in this indecipherable place, I can breathe". In public, city dwellers may don an impassive mask, act cool and indifferent to others on the street; but in private, they can be aroused by these strange contacts, their certainties shaken by the presence of others.
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