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Urban Pollution

Urban Pollution: Cultural Meanings, Social Practices

Eveline Dürr
Rivke Jaffe
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Urban Pollution
    Book Description:

    Re-examining Mary Douglas' work on pollution and concepts of purity, this volume explores modern expressions of these themes in urban areas, examining the intersections of material and cultural pollution. It presents ethnographic case studies from a range of cities affected by globalization processes such as neoliberal urban policies, privatization of urban space, continued migration and spatialized ethnic tension. What has changed since the appearance ofPurity and Danger? How have anthropological views on pollution changed accordingly? This volume focuses on cultural meanings and values that are attached to conceptions of 'clean' and 'dirty', purity and impurity, healthy and unhealthy environments, and addresses the implications of pollution with regard to discrimination, class, urban poverty, social hierarchies and ethnic segregation in cities.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-848-5
    Subjects: Anthropology, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction: Cultural and Material Forms of Urban Pollution
    (pp. 1-29)
    Rivke Jaffe and Eveline Dürr

    In an increasingly urbanised world, environmental degradation is a crucial factor in the development and liveability of cities. Air quality, garbage, noise, stench and other forms of pollution both reflect and influence human habits and social behaviour. Urban environmental and public health policies are products of political ideologies, dominating important aspects of city life and the physical environment. Simultaneously, vernacular understandings of the city can influence or undermine environmental and social policy. While urban environmental management has received increasing attention in recent years, technological and economic approaches are generally privileged over attention to social and cultural perspectives on pollution. Surprisingly...

  6. Chapter 2 ‘Tidy Kiwis/Dirty Asians’: Cultural Pollution and Migration in Auckland, New Zealand
    (pp. 30-56)
    Eveline Dürr

    As Asian migration¹ to Pacific Rim countries like New Zealand has grown enormously in volume over the last decades, Asian migrants have become more visible in these societies, especially through impacts on demographic patterns, residential structure and intercultural relationships (Skeldon 2000; Li 2006). Asian migrants are not new to ex-British colonies in the Pacific Rim, but political and economic conditions in the destination countries and in Asian ‘homelands’ are markedly different now than in the past. These changes are also evident in migratory patterns and migrants’ socio-economic characteristics. While in the past the great majority of the migrants were part...

  7. Chapter 3 Private Cleanliness, Public Mess: Purity, Pollution and Space in Kottar, South India
    (pp. 57-85)
    Damaris Lüthi

    Historical differences in concepts of hygiene illustrate that changing concepts of cleanliness relate to changing images of the body and changing ideas about health and wellbeing. The ‘rationality’ of ‘hygienic’ practices is continuously redefined in line with changed insights and discourses. For example, ideas of health and hygiene have been in constant flux in Europe and North America (e.g. Illi and Steiner 1997; Vigarello 1985; Williams 1991). The French historian Georges Vigarello (1985) relates these processes to changing images of the body, its envelopes and its environment. Medieval concern with cleanliness, for example, was limited to the visible parts of...

  8. Chapter 4 The Jungle and the City: Perceptions of the Urban among Indo-Fijians in Suva, Fiji
    (pp. 86-102)
    Susanna Trnka

    The city of Suva is located on the southeast side of Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island. With a population of over 167,000 and a downtown packed with bars, nightclubs, internet cafés and ethnic restaurants, Suva is, as tourist guidebooks like to point out, ‘the most cosmopolitan city in the South Pacific’ (Bienstock 2003: 406). It is also a city plagued by increasing levels of crime, contagious disease and environmental hazards. This chapter examines how Indo-Fijians, Fiji’s second largest cultural group and roughly thirty nine percent of Suva’s population, perceive of the City in opposition to the Jungle.¹ Mindful of the...

  9. Chapter 5 Gendered Fears of Pollution: Traversing Public Space in Neoliberal Cairo
    (pp. 103-122)
    Anouk de Koning

    This excerpt from an essay in the English language publicationCommunity Timesreflects a common comment on sexual harassment in the streets of Cairo. The author expresses her frustration with the way her passage through public space is hampered by unsavoury comments and unwanted physical contact. As I argue in this chapter, this scene can also be read as an expression of the tensions that accompany new class configurations in Egypt’s new liberal age, and their manifestations in Cairo’s cityscape. I am particularly interested in the complex ways in which her commentary knits together issues of gender, class and public...

  10. Chapter 6 The Choice between Clean and Dirty: Discourses of Aesthetics, Morality and Progress in Post-Revolutionary Asmara, Eritrea
    (pp. 123-143)
    Magnus Treiber

    Travel reports in the mid 1990s covering Asmara, capital of then newly independent Eritrea, Africa’s youngest state, vied with one another in praising the city’s extraordinary architectural beauty and obviously unexpected urban character.¹ Journalists, sensing a new era about to dawn for the small, war torn country bordering on the Red Sea, described a ‘petite Rome’ (Lathullière 1995) with a ‘touch of cultivated urbanity’ and ‘Italian flair’ (Mack 1993). Until today, most reports do not fail to mention the numerous Italian street cafés alongside Asmara’s principal boulevard, Liberty Avenue (godena harnetin Tigrinya, the dominant local language) or the properly...

  11. Chapter 7 Using Pollution to Frame Collective Action: Urban Grassroots Mobilisations in Budapest
    (pp. 144-162)
    Szabina Kerényi

    The perception of pollution has general, cross-cultural features – most commonly pollution is understood negatively, as the opposite of cleanness and order, and is perceived as something undesirable. In cities, pollution is usually visible and measurable in very concrete ways, as it is evident in the quality of air, or its physical presence can simply be observed. Urban pollution is also a concept that is often shared publicly, as it tends to affect public space and thus applies to everyone. Pollution has become an integral part of urban problems, and one that is generally dealt with at the policy level....

  12. Chapter 8 Cleanness, Order and Security: The Re-emergence of Restrictive Definitions of Urbanity in Europe
    (pp. 163-177)
    Johanna Rolshoven

    The time to talk about cleanness, order and security has returned: during the past decade, discourse on the urban realm, with respect to its health and unhealthiness, has found new expressions in recent policies of managing public urban space. While there is clearly a quest for clarity and certainty behind the triad of cleanness, order and security, this contribution takes a closer look at the surface phenomenon, which is becoming generalised in Swiss and European towns. Specifically, the so-calledWegweisungsbestimmungenin German-speaking countries are examined in order to illustrate the discourse of ‘health’ and the city, and how these two...

  13. Chapter 9 Social Equity and Social Housing Densification in Glen Innes, New Zealand: A Political Ecology Approach
    (pp. 178-197)
    Kathryn Scott, Angela Shaw and Christina Bava

    New urbanism is characterised as concerned with sustainability in our cities and towns, with a focus on more compact forms of development. Compact, mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly developments are intended to reduce urban sprawl and reliance on cars, increase uptake of public transport, provide ‘vibrant’ public spaces, and make more ‘liveable’ communities. Increased levels of social interaction and cultural activities are also perceived to result from densification (Williams 1999). Spatial changes to urban form are therefore intended to improve social, economic and environmental sustainability in urban areas.

    In the Brundlant Report (WCED 1987), social aspects of sustainability were expressed through references to...

  14. Chapter 10 Afterword: Impure Thoughts on Messy Cities
    (pp. 198-201)
    Aidan Davison

    Understood as a physical threat to human and non-human health, pollution attracts considerable attention in the form of management regimes, public controversy and technical discourses of risk. Within the academy, there is an associated focus on pollution in fields such as economics, engineering, medicine and biology. Pollution nonetheless fits poorly with the academic division of labour into natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. As the illegitimate offspring of technological systems, pollution appears to be the antithesis of ecological order and social order. The category of pollution threatens to pollute modern disciplines of knowledge by seeming to originate from neither the...

  15. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 202-204)
  16. Index
    (pp. 205-210)