Global cities / open cities? Segregation in the global South (completed)

Darshan Vigneswaran

This is a project about a major urban paradox. As globalization draws the world’s population closer together, great barriers are emerging between the closest of neighbors. The rapid expansion of economic, transport and communication networks has led some to proclaim the ‘death of distance’ (Cairncross 1997). Yet, in today’s cities, racial, religious, ethnic and class groups live ‘parallel lives’: side-by-side but never connecting. Segregation is stark in the central nodes of the international system: ‘global cities’ like New York, London and Paris. Elites in these cities’ work for international businesses and interact with far-reaching circles of ‘virtual’ friends. Meanwhile, their less privileged neighbors are marginalized in ghettoes, housing estates, or banlieue. However, the problems first noticed in the global cities of the North, are increasingly playing out at a much greater scale in the global cities of the South. Films like Slumdog Millionaire, City of God and Tsotsi are not portents of a urban dystopia in some far off future, but tales of contemporary reality in a world that is united by a tiny transnational elite, while one in six people lives in a slum (UN HABITAT 2010).
Why aren’t the forces of globalization creating open cities? How might we envisage and create an integrated urban future? This project answers these questions through the study of segregation across ‘emerging’ global cities. Beginning in Johannesburg and Mumbai, the project aims to:

  • Identify and richly describe the underlying forces which create spatial faultlines in today’s global cities;
  • Refocus attention on the cities where most urbanites live: the cities of the Global South.
  • Accurately measure and represent segregation by innovating and applying quantitative and qualitative GIS analysis and visualization techniques.

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