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The Cultures of Cities
by Sharon Zukin
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How do cities use culture today? Building on the experience of NewYork as a "culture capital" Sharon Zukin shows how three notions ofculture - as ethnicity, aesthetic, and marketing tool - arereshaping urban places and conflicts over revitalization. Sherejects the idea that cities have either a singular urban cultureor many different subcultures to argue that cultures are constantlynegotiated in the city's central spaces - the streets, parks,shops, museums, and restaurants - which are the great public spacesof modernity. While cultural gentrification may contribute to making ourcities both safer and more civilised places to live, it has itsdarker side. Beneath the perceptions of "civility" and "security"nurtured by cultural strategies, Zukin shows an aggressiveprivate-sector bid for control of public space, a relentless drivefor expansion by art museums and other non-profit culturalinstitutions, and an increasing redesign of the built environmentfor the purposes of social control. Tying these developments to a new "symbolic economy" based ontourism, media and entertainment, Zukin traces the connectionsbetween real estate development and popular expression, and betweenelite visions of the arts and more democratic representations.Going beyond the immigrants, artists, street peddlers, and securityguards who are the key figures in the symbolic economy, Zukin asks:Who really occupies the central spaces of cities? And whose cultureis imposed as public culture? Combining cultural critique, interviews, autobiography andethnography, The Culture of Cities is a compelling accountof the public spaces of modernity as they are transformed into new,more troubling landscapes.
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