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Cities and difficult heritage

Introduce what follows: post-colonial cities, post-apartheid cities

We have already discussed how the heritage of a city can include difficult elements from the past that could potentially divide the city or ask for rethinking its heritage or both.

This was the case of Bristol and the commemoration of the end of slavery. Indeed, that occasion provoked a critical rethinking of the city’s past as a major slave-trade port, not just in the sense of rejecting slavery but also with a view of rewriting this heritage from a different perspective, from the perspective of the city’s ethnic minorities.

Similarly, in the case of Cologne we have seen how diversity can arise from recent migration and how it can also invite us to rethink the contemporary heritage of a city asking for an active blending of the different elements. This case highlighted the importance of both local authorities and citizen mobilization to defend an inclusive approach that embraces the diversity created in the city through migration.

In the coming steps we turn our focus to cities outside Europe that are characterized by significant ethnic, religious, and racial diversity. These are cities actively creating their new register after colonialism and beyond post-colonialism as they seek a new way to deal not only with cultural diversity but also with socio economic inequality while at the same time looking for a new lever for growth through urban cultural regeneration projects.

The cases that we will discuss in the following steps are Mumbai in India and Johannesburg in South Africa. Mumbai is more typically a post-colonial centre but it is also a city that has existed in its own right as a port and as a trade hub. It was not a city created by colonialism. It has integrated a host of native communities of different ethnic and religious backgrounds and turned into a global multi-ethnic city and an important financial centre. Preserving its heritage has not been an easy task.

Johannesburg on the other hand is probably the textbook case of a city divided by apartheid and actively seeking a new identity and a new model for growth. Our discussion of Johannesburg illustrates the role of culture in providing a lever for socio economic development bringing together the more affluent areas and poorest parts of the city.

Indeed, what is common in either case is the important spatial, cultural, and economic role of the historical city centre (of Mumbai and of Johannesburg) as a place for urban cultural regeneration that can give a new impetus to the city.

© European University Institute
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Cultural Diversity and the City

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