ENVS 2200 Chapter Notes -Veranda, Wicket-Keeper, Utopia
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(wk 8) Nov. 7, 2013
Urban Regions III – The New Urban Region
In King’s excerpt, the suburb is explained as a spatially detached area from the city, with
households spatially separate from each other, resulting from imperialistic and colonial
ideas and policies. The modern suburbia consists of increasing commoditization and a
shopping economy that changed class identities and catered the suburbia to the white
middle-class and rich populous. This is evident from the three spatial forms of suburban
life; the villa, the veranda, and the bungalow. All of these house-types consisted of large
rooms that needed servants to look after them symbolizing a status quo of the elite. Soja’s
reading adds to this view that suburbia is a voluntary residential suburbanization of the
wealthy elite and has left the ‘inner city’ working class dominant and the ‘outer city’
middle-class dominant. He talks about the wealthy searching for better housing and
transportation, since they could afford cars, this become the driving force of
suburbanization and sprawl.
These suburbs come in many pseudo-suburb styles, one of which is a suprurb or globurb.
A globurb consists of new migrant communities and commercial and cultural centers
evident of many malls, temples, festivals and transnational spaces. These transnational
spaces are ethnoburbs with cultural clusters of significant concentration of one minority.
For example, King states in 1990, San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles Country had the
largest Chinese population concentration in the USA. Such neighbourhoods consisted of
Chinese people keeping close ties to their country through radio and television media
entertainment in their dialect. This created ethnoburb or globurbs where different suburbs
turned into ethnic social communities or racially mix communities and not necessarily
rich. Soja states this further created edge cities where black middle class moved to. With
such mixture and community dominant neighbourhoods, there was bound to be leftover
space, with a mix of neither a city nor a suburb, this can be better described as an
exopolis or a ‘city turned inside out’ where there is urbanization and de-urbanization at
the same time.
I have previously witnessed what King said about gate-communities countries gaining
post colonial privilege through hijacking similar names. There was a time when I
travelled to London, UK frequently and shortly afterwards settled in Sydney Australia in
2006. Later when I arrived to Canada in 2008 I used to forget which country I was in
because we had very similar street names and landmarks in all the three cities. For
example, a Kensington market of cheap goods exists in London(UK), Sydney(Australia)
and Toronto(Canada). This is proof of what Soja states about how countries invoked
distinctive specific identities post-colonially for social privilege so much so that I could
witness no difference amongst them. I also agree with King’s view on gate-communities.
I visited one in Doha, Qatar that was a residential space exclusively reserved for foreign
rich people, a utopia, which when you stepped outside you could witness the poor
housing and low-quality infrastructure in close proximity. I find it interesting that
academically I have found reasons how such cities and communities came to be through
sprawl, suburbanisation and colonialism.
Ed Soja “Exopolis” in Soja, Postmetropolis (Oxford: Blackwell) 233-263.
Anthony King “Suburb/Ethnoburg/Globurb: The Making of Contemporary Modernities” in Spaces of
Global Culture: Architecture, Urbanism, Identity (New York: Routledge) 97-110.
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