chapter  6
10 Pages

China Inc. and the future of European cities: Theatres or theme parks?

WithTRIDIB BANERJEE

Contemporary globalization has many faces, images, and imperatives. In the next twenty-­five­ years,­ the­ agencies­ of­ globalization­ –­ capital,­ culture,­ information,­ people, etc. (see Pizarro et al. 2004)­–­are­likely­to­become­more­active­and­more­ pervasive. While the effect of globalization so far has been primarily a one-way process,­ from­ the­ north­ to­ the­ south,­ this­ will­ certainly­ change­ as­ the­ flow­ is­ reversed.­The­theme­of­this­book­–­‘China­and­Europe’­–­is­an­appropriate­metaphor­ that­ captures­ this­ scenario,­ although­ the­ reverse­flow­may­ not­ necessarily­ originate­from­China­only,­it­may­include­other­parts­of­the­developing­south.­To­ a­ large­extent,­ this­flow­will­be­manifested­in­ the­flow­of­ labour,­as­we­already­ see­in­many­cities­of­Europe­where­the­influx­of­foreign­labour­has­led­to­segregated­enclaves­and­ghettoes,­contested­places,­and­spaces­of­insurgent­citizenship­ (Holston­ 1995).­ Inexorably,­ this­ will­ be­ followed­ by­ bourgeois­ tourists­ from­ emerging­economies­of­the­developing­world,­and­we­are­likely­to­see­unprecedented­growth­in­tourism­as­the­ranks­of­the­middle­class­continue­to­increase­in­ many parts of the world, China and India being the notable cases in point. According to one report, some 8.3 million Indians travelled abroad in 2006 spending­$7.5­billion­or­$903­per­person­on­average.­The­Chinese­tourists­spent­$100­ more­on­average­(Indian­Tribune­2007).­Although­only­a­fifth­of­the­Indian­travellers­came­to­Europe,­this­number­will­surely­grow­in­the­years­to­come. In this chapter, I will examine the implications of the inexorable growth in tourism­and­ its­associated­consumption­ industry­and­ the­ future­choices­ for­ the­ conservation,­design,­and­development­of­European­cities.­The­central­concept­ to­be­explored­in­this­chapter­is­the­concept­of­flânerie­as­it­may­apply­to­studying­the­prospects­for­the­urbanism­of­entertainment.­The­act­of­flânerie­involves­ looking,­strolling,­experiencing­the­urban­sensorium­(see­Goonewardena­2005)­ and­spectacles.­There­is­a­considerable­body­of­literature­on­flânerie­going­back­ to­the­unfinished­work­of­Walter­Benjamin­on­the­passages­of­Paris­(Benjamin­ 1999).­Susan­Buck-­Morss’s­(1991)­use­of­Benjamin’s­project­as­an­example­of­ ‘dialectics­of­seeing’­provides­an­important­ theoretical­referent­for­understanding­how­urban­form­and­space­can­be­suffused­with­the­material­culture­of­capitalist­consumption.­Benjamin­(1999:­422)­wrote:

The­flâneur­is­the­observer­of­the­marketplace­.­.­.­He­is­a­spy­for­the­capitalists,­on­assignment­in­the­realm­of­consumers.