I could tell you how many steps make up the streets rising like stairways, and of the degree of the arcades' curves, and what kind of zinc scales cover the roofs; but I already know this would be the same as telling you nothing. The city does not consist of this, but of relationships between the measurements of its space and the events of its past...A description of Zaira as it is today should contain all Zaira's past. -Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Friday, August 12, 2005

Cultural Geography or Anthropology

I just got around to reading David Brooks's New York Times column from a couple of days ago. In it he makes the argument that cultural geography (in his definition basically studying why people in different places are different) is now un-PC but in his opinion more and more necessary. He writes:

"Not long ago, people said that globalization and the revolution in communications technology would bring us all together. But the opposite is true. People are taking advantage of freedom and technology to create new groups and cultural zones. Old national identities and behavior patterns are proving surprisingly durable. People are moving into self-segregating communities with people like themselves, and building invisible and sometimes visible barriers to keep strangers out."

I don't think trying to understand this is limited to cultural geography (anthropology, anyone?) but it is an interesting stance, and makes me wonder. Which is more powerful, globalization or segregation? Or does it matter, when in fact both are probably equally strong? My dissertation looked at a smaller scale (pilgrimage) that many assumed was all about breaking down social boundaries, and I argued that yes, it does that, but it is also an arena where social boundaries get emphasized...so is this the way of our world, however large our geographic boundaries get?

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