Accepted paper:

Cities as semi-voluntary concentration camps


Petr Skalník (University of Hradec Králové)

Paper short abstract:

Urban space in most parts of the world expands rapidly and uncontrolably. The advantages of urban concentration are now outweighed by disadvantages. Residential inequalities are coupled with political and economic. City has become a place of dehumanization. The solutions are not in mega-cities but in promoting self-sustaining neo-rural deconcentrations.

Paper long abstract:

Cities are often quoted as expression of civilization and progress. Though it is possible to find many evidence of the contribution of urban life to humanization, both public and academics tend to forget that even in Europe the urban concentrations have until recently been also places of devastating epidemics, squalor, criminality, war sieges, of deepest social differences. Cities have been centres of power but also most effective subjugation of their populations. At present many cities in developed countries suffer from air and water pollution, chaotic urbanism, territorial vastness, etc. In less developed parts of the world to these anti-life factors are added shanties and slums, mass unemployment, criminality, frustration for million. Yet, humanity urbanizes at enormous pace. Whereas in developed world most inhabitants live in the cities in more rural parts of the world the balance tilts gradually towards predominant urbanization as well. Whole areas which sustained agricultural population are now depopulated and millions move headlong into the city as if attracted by the tune of the proverbial rat catcher. The paper will discuss this apparent contradiction between the dream and reality of the headlong urbanization and some trends away from excessive urbanization. Uncontrolled expansion of mega-cities in India, Mexico, Africa will be compared to policies of urbanization in Europe and North America, Middle East, China and Russia. Anthropologists are well-equipped to examine the possibly catastrophic trends and should instead of celebrating seemingly emancipating urban modernity examine arguments for alternatives to the total urbanization of the world.

panel PE43
Averting a global environmental collapse: the role of anthropology and local knowledge (WCAA panel)