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Sydney Ideas - Space, Social Conflict, and the Future of Urban Society: a c...

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The University of Sydney

Law School Foyer (Level 2, Sydney Law School)

Eastern Avenue

Camperdown, NSW 2006

Australia

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Professor Michael Herzfeld, Ernest E Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University

Co-presented with the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, the China Studies Centre, the Department of Anthropology, and the School of Architecture, Design and Planning

For many years now, anthropologists and urban scholars alike have identified ‘gentrification’ as a process of class conflict in which poorer people get pushed to the margins of urban life in the name of ‘urban renewal.’

Professor Michael Herzfeld will argue that gentrification is the tip of a much larger iceberg, called ‘development’ – a grandiloquent idea that is often coupled with socially and culturally destructive policies and that easily promotes insidious (because unstated) forms of social Darwinism (‘the survival of the fittest’) and paternalism.

Using examples from Thailand, China, Greece, and Italy, he will argue that these short-sighted policies are creating an increasingly disenfranchised and resentful under-class. While reactions in these and other countries will vary with cultural conventions, economic dynamics, and the extent to which development evades socially responsible control, the impact on ordinary people is likely to be devastating, while it will also entail the obliteration of socially viable arrangements that have worked well for centuries or even millennia.

Michael suggests that currently emergent forms of urban protest may not be sufficient to stem the tide, but that more concerted engagement by academics and professionals could and must make a significant difference. He will also briefly address some relatively unusual situations where gentrification has had benign effects and will propose that these could provide models for socially responsible planning in the future.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER:
Professor Michael Herzfeld is Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University, Director of the Asia Center’s Thai Studies Program. The author of eleven books, numerous articles and reviews, he has also produced two ethnographic films. An advocate for ‘engaged anthropology’,” he has conducted research in Greece, Italy, and Thailand on, inter alia, the social and political impact of historic conservation and gentrification, the social effects of urban policy, the dynamics of nationalism and bureaucracy, and the ethnography of knowledge among artisans and intellectuals. Full biography.

Discussants:

  • Professor Linda Connor, Department of Anthropology, School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Associate Prof Kurt Iverson, Urban Geography, School of Geosciences
  • Dr Cameron Logan, Director of Heritage Conservation in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning


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The University of Sydney

Law School Foyer (Level 2, Sydney Law School)

Eastern Avenue

Camperdown, NSW 2006

Australia

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