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article imageOp-Ed: A more informed urban narrative Special

By Julian Chambliss     Dec 21, 2014 in World
London - The challenges linked to the urban environment requires following multiple paths to find solutions. Academic voices are often overlooked, but the reality is countless scholars offer crucial insights that can clarify contemporary concerns.
In the new millennium understanding, humanizing, and improving the urban experience remains a pressing challenge. New digital tools allow us to bridge the gap between imagined space and real places to make the modern city more intimate, visceral, and engaging. Yet, old concerns about equity, health, and safety remain, calling into question the ultimate texture of this global urban evolution.
From a historical standpoint, the contemporary landscape has historical parallels to civil betterment activism at the turn of the twentieth century. Civic betterment efforts combined aesthetics, social activism, and policy reform championed by academics, individuals, neighbourhood organizations, and private institutions that prompted governments in United States and United Kingdom to address pressing urban concern. A key tool in these activities was to narrativize the challenges associated with the city. Academics played a crucial part in the process lending their expertise to grassroots efforts clarify political, economic, and social questions and add context to new ideas and possible policy actions.
In the modern context, a scholar such as Suzanne Hall reflects this academic legacy. Hall is an urban ethnographer with the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Who are you?
My name is Suzanne Hall and I am an urban ethnographer based at LSE Cities, at the London School of Economics and Political Science. I focus on the ordinary spaces and rhythms of the city to understand larger issues of urban migration and urban multiculture.
What motivates you?
I am interested in the everyday innovations and collaborations that result from profound urban change. I am concerned by the increasing politics of preservation across the UK and Europe, and particularly the fear of the migrant or ‘stranger’. I am motivated by revealing other perspectives of what is shared and made in a context of increasing urban migration and ethnic diversity.
Where is your focus?
I focus on the city street as a commonplace urban currency. This provides an ‘ordinary’ or everyday notation from which to explore complex issues of the inner city, inequality, emerging urban economies and cultural diversity. I am also engaged in developing both ethnographic and visual readings of spatial and social change, in order to communicate with the academy and a broader political and cultural public.
Why should we care?
Cities are becoming more disparate and more diverse. Understanding the challenges to and achievements of living with diversity is a central concern for twenty-first century cities.
How can people engage with you?
Please have a look at our ‘Ordinary Streets’ website.
You are welcome to make contact via email at:
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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