chapter  3
20 Pages

Towards a cosmopolitan urbanism: From theory to practice

WithLeonie Sandercock

Most cities today are demographically multicultural, and more are likely to become so in the foreseeable future. The central question of this chapter is how to come to terms – theoretically, philosophically, and practically – with this empirical urban reality. What can the practice of the Collingwood Neighbourhood House contribute to our theoretical understanding of the possibilities of peaceful co-existence in the mongrel cities of the 21st century? My argument proceeds in four stages. First, I discuss the challenge to our urban sociological imaginations in thinking about how we might live together in all of our differences. Second, I propose the importance of a deeper political and psychological understanding of difference, and its significance in urban politics. Third, I suggest a way of theorizing an intercultural political project for 21st century cities, addressing the shortcomings of 20th century multicultural philosophy. And finally, I link all of these with the actual achievement of the Collingwood Neighbourhood House in the integration of immigrants in Vancouver.

Arriving and departing travelers at Vancouver International Airport are greeted by a huge bronze sculpture of a boatload of strange, mythical creatures. This 7 metre long, almost 4 metre wide and 4 metre high masterpiece, The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, is by the late Bill Reid, a member of the Haida Gwaii First Nations band from the Pacific Northwest. The canoe has thirteen passengers, spirits or myth creatures from Haida mythology.1 The bear mother, who is part human, and the bear father sit facing each other at the bow with their two cubs between them. The beaver is paddling menacingly amidships, and behind him is the mysterious intercultural dogfish woman. Shy mouse woman is tucked in the stern. A ferociously playful