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Inclusive cities: challenges of urban diversity


The viability of a city does not depend only on its economic efficiency. Cities are necessarily diverse in their social and cultural composition, and their viability also depends on their capacity to generate and maintain a shared sense of responsibility for the future by respecting that diversity.


With a view to creating a better understanding of how cities can encourage urban inclusion at a time of intense social and cultural transformations, the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington DC and the Development Bank of Southern Africa are promoting a comparative study of the intellectual and practical challenges presented by growing diversity.

Cities are necessarily settings of cultural diversity, in particular with regard to traditions, beliefs, knowledge, technical skills, professional activities and the aspirations of their inhabitants. It is on the basis of this heterogeneity that cities are born, grow and frequently prosper as centres of interaction and interchange, innovation and development.
While this inherent diversity of cities is a source of material and immaterial wealth, it can also constitute a great problem. Diversity involves contradictory ideas, conflicting interests and projects that are at times incompatible. This is to say that real, living, dynamic cities are also intrinsically and inescapably settings for conflict, spaces of confrontation.

Cities, at least in the modern and democratic sense, only exist fully to the extent that they manage to become settings and mechanisms for the integration and synergy of diversity, which is to say to the extent that they are able to achieve a certain degree of cohesion on the basis of difference.

How can this articulation of cohesion and difference be achieved, created, maintained and renovated at a time of intensive and accelerated growth of urban diversity? How can we conceive of strategies of civic inclusion that might bring into being effective mechanisms of shared citizenship that would go beyond individual differences?

These are the basic issues of this debate, which forms part of the research and discussion programme "Challenges of Urban Diversity: Inclusive Cities vs. Divided Cities", an initiative of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWICS) of Washington, the Development Bank of Southern Africa of Johannesburg and the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB).


Introduction: Josep Ramoneda, director of the CCCB.

Presented and moderated by: Pep Subirós, writer.

Speakers: Ash Amin, Professor of Geography at the University of Durham, United Kingdom. Edgar Pieterse, Director of the Insandla Institute in Cape Town, South Africa. Ananya Roy, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning in the Department of Urban Studies at the University of California Berkeley, United States. Blair Ruble, Codirector of the project of Comparative Urban Studies at the Woodrow WilsonInternational Center for Scholars (WWICS) in Washington DC, United States.

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