0 Replies Latest reply: Jun 4, 2014 11:12 PM by felipe RSS

    Modernization and diversity

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      Fellow members of the urban transport community of practice,

      Our co-administrator, Daniel Kriske, has kicked off an interesting discussion about the relationship between modernization and diversity. Daniel mentions South Korea as a good example of "new" and "old" culture articulated in a way that seems to preserve traditional identity, providing, at the same time, a framework for the integration of that country into the world. To consider the impact of this issue into urban discussions I think it would be useful to ask, for example, what is common and what is peculiar among different "global cities"? Global cities are the result of modernization taken to its full potential. Nevertheless, there are many different kinds of global cities. That diversity proves, to some extent, that modernization in a global scale does not necessarily leads to "homogenization".

      I'm very grateful to Daniel for encouraging this discussion. It would be great to hear the opinion of others in the community on these issues.

      The messages Daniel and I have exchanged are transcribed below.

      Best regards,

      Felipe Dittrich Ferreira


      Hi Felipe,


      As one of the new co-administrators of the Urban Transport Community of Practice on C4D, I wanted to reach out to you to see if you had any feedback on the group.


      I saw on your profile that one of your primary research interests is the relation between modernization and diversity.  This topic is particularly important in the context of urban development, as a chief concern among many developing metropolises is that by modernizing, they may lose some of their unique, native culture -- though I daresay you're even more aware of this than I.  If you had any specific experience or anecdotes you'd care to relate about this topic, I (and the rest of the community as well) would be delighted to listen!


      In addition, if you had any particular ideas for the group, or other topics you'd like to see discussed, I would love to hear your suggestions.


      Thanks for your continued participation!

      Best Regards,

      Daniel Kriske

      Urban Transport CoP co-admin


      Dear Daniel,


      thanks a lot for your message. I would say, to outline an answer, that native culture, under the influence of modernization, is normally transformed, that is, not lost, but integrated into a new set, at the same time influenced by exogenous elements and influencing the way those elements are perceived locally. It often happens that some cultural traits, under the influence of modernization, decline while others seem to be reinforced. In newly formed urban environments, for example, ethnic identification is sometimes reinforced to facilitate the construction of "safety networks". Ethnicity, in other words, is used, sometimes, as a mechanism to control risks associated to migration -- to facilitate access to work, credit and housing, for example. Diversity, therefore, is sometimes increased by modernization. That does not mean that "native culture", subjected to the influence of modern forces, will remain unchanged, it means that culture is always evolving, in response to a variety of factors. Culture, it is important to emphasize, is not only reactive or adaptative, sometimes culture is the defining force, provoking changes in political and economic factors.


      For those interested in this debate I suggest two among many other possible readings: Abner´s Cohen "Custom and Politics in Urban Africa" e Adeline Masquelier's "Debating Muslims, disputed practices: Struggles for the realization of an alternative moral order in Niger", a chapter in Comaroff, J. and Comaroff, J.L. (eds.), Civil society and the political imagination in Africa: Critical perspectives.


      It would be great to know the opinion of others in the community about this topic.


      Very best regards,

      Felipe Dittrich Ferreira



      Dear Felipe,


      Thanks for your incredibly eloquent response!  You've outlined a number of essential issues about culture, especially the fact that it is not lost, but rather molded by, and often plays a crucial part in modernization.  Having these concepts elucidated so clearly helps to bring to mind several real world examples. 


      In discussions about modernity and culture, I often like to turn to South Korea, a country in which I have more than a year's experience.  It's amazing to reflect on the fact that 40 years ago it was a destitute nation, whereas now it's known for being one of hotbeds of high-technology such as smartphones, TVs, and autos.  Indeed, this high-tech culture has become synonymous with the country, and moreover, complements rather than destroys the "traditional" culture.  This juxtaposition of "new" and "old" culture is one of the country's top draws, and certainly an attractive element that Koreans feel proud of and wish to promote.


      I'll definitely look into those works that you've recommended, thank you! 


      And I would encourage you to share this discussion with the rest of the group by using the "create a discussion" feature on the right-hand side of the group page  -- you're right, it would be great to know the opinions of others in the community about this important topic!


      Thanks again,
      Daniel Kriske