Cultural Territories and Urban Resilience

This is an ongoing effort to consolidate the resilience understanding in Indian context. The blog and video is an attempt to bring resilience perspective on soft cities. I: e culture of cities. The argument is made discussing and orienting the urban resilience debate towards various kinds of vulnerabilities.

The word “Cultural Territories” are derived from John Montgomery book “conceptualizing cultural quarters” where he discussed the idea of cultural quarter as an approach to urban regeneration. However it is very important to understand and locate the study approach to cultural territories and within which the  two terms that are often confused for study are: Cultural theory and cultural studies. The cultural theories articulate the cultural phenomena, everyday life that brings about inherent meaning. Cultural studies are an area of study of power structure that shapes the culture of our cities. I:e ideology of nation, meaning of ethnicity, gender and society, cultural crisis. The cultural theory is about understanding of culture and value system though history, heritage and every day, while cultural studies is about understanding of culture and value system of history and heritage through established power structure or prevailing political structure.

So question comes to our mind that what is cultural territories and why we need to understand the resilience perspective of the same. How are they relevant to understanding of urban phenomena or how they able to operate within the complex issues of urban? The understanding of the term cultural territories comes through question of urban form, i:e: activity, form and meaning. The integrity of these three aspects would constitute strong cultural territories and define urban form. This is perhaps more relevant to Indian cities where every city has its own history, own contextual genesis and own sense of cultural mosaic.

In other words, cultural territories tend to combine strategies for greater consumption of the arts and culture with cultural production and urban place making

Every city has identifiable Cultural territories that are embedded within deeper sense of historicity. It is very important to articulate such tangible and intangible territories which are guided by spatial and physical network. In this sense it enables us to understand the urban form through cultural territories over and above urban form constituents of artefacts or its architecture

The cultural territories could be tangible as well as intangible, depending on the nature of relationships that its constituents engaged with. But it is important to unravel them and represent them so that it brings out the historicity and its imperatives as enablers for urban regeneration. The cultural territories are activities, form and meaning, which embedded within the socio-economic situation and are culturally accepted norms, which in turn enables the spaces and public realm operational in a unique way.

What urban territories do to urban phenomena and makes the case for the research and investigation. It brings about form, character, network and safety. Perhaps these are the most important indexes for livability.

The question of resilience to cultural territories are perhaps important one when one brings about urban regeneration process without being carried away with generic process of making of cities for anywhere. Hence it is important to work on the strategy that allows us to mitigate vulnerabilities to such cultural territories. So what are we talking about is Urban regeneration through resilience strategy for cultural territories. The cultural territories are often seen as part of a larger strategy integrating cultural and economic development, and are experimented in various contexts of historic cities with strong community.

Now we talk about vulnerabilities to cultural territories: How do we define those vulnerabilities?, where do they come from? What do they do to our cities and our everyday life?. The threats that exist are to make cities part of global network and making all cities culturally homogeneous.

One may look at every city in India; they are all different, unique and are threaten by such homogenization process. They will iron out the fine cultural mosaic and perhaps make them beyond identifiable ones.

For example, if we take Jaipur city, it’s a unique city with very distinct historic character, if one begins to dissect the anatomical structure, it reveals deep structure, sub structure of cultural territories. In order to perform such task one has to begin with its historic circumstances and mechanism that has operationalized the formation of the city. The entire unravelling process of cultural territories elucidates the principles of spatial practices and Its ever transforming nature of fabric reveals the codes and norms defined by cultural territories.

The practices within cultural territories  shows how the global process has enabled the formation of implicit spaces for global interaction as opposed to the culturally driven mass that produces everyday life and explicit spaces. One has to begin to address and articulate the conflicting forces that exist between implicit spaces and explicit spaces. If resilience is about adaptability of urban form for transformation then sustainability is about the priority of community exercised towards particular direction of transformation. The communities in such historic cities are true examples of resilience and sustainability learning.

Cover Photo Credit: Jamshid Bhiwandiwala, George Jacob

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