Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Urban Destruction and "Reconstruction"

We live in a world where entire cities are regularly being destroyed and then "reconstructed". The source of their destruction may be war (Kabul, Bagdhad, Dili), disaster (Banda Aceh, New Orleans), or simply modernization on an immense scale (Beijing). [One of our newer members--Sheri--is conducting research on the Dili case]. Whatever the cause, urban reconstruction and redevelopment add a whole new social dynamic to urban life. An example of this is provided by Kabul, where foreign workers, security forces, narco- "war lords", and ordinary Afghanis are all active in rebuilding the city following the war. Some analysts, like Marc Herold, believe what is happening to Kabul right now is highly problematic. He cites a Bloomberg article which describes how foreigners are affecting city development: "This is a new Kabul, a rebuilding city full of high-rises put up by the nouveau riche modeled on gaudy Pakistani buildings they remember from their exile. With their black-and-white marble trim, fussy columns and multicolored glass facades, they stand like arrogant peacocks over their humble adobe neighbors. Paid handsomely for working in a war-ravaged country, the burgeoning ex-pat community rebuilding the country flocks to trendy international restaurants like L'Atmosphere, owned by a Frenchman who originally came to Kabul to train Afghan journalists. Here, behind high steel walls, a passageway meant to mimic a Provencal farmhouse gives way to a well-kept garden, complete with a swimming pool. Bikini-clad French women exchange greeting kisses on the cheek as Bridgette Bardot-era music pumps gently from well- hidden speakers. Tables fill up quickly with hungry U.N. workers and diplomatic staff who pore over the menu, looking for the best Beaujolais." See Herold's scathing take on Kabul here (his views are not necessarily my own, but they certainly deserve consideration).


Post a Comment

<< Home