Eight studies explore the tensions created by globalization in
cities far removed from international commercial centers.
Relocating Global Cities From the Center to the Margins
by M. Mark Amen, Kevin Archer, and M. Martin Bosman, eds.,
Rowman & Littlefield 2006,
London, New York, Singapore—these are names
that would come to mind in compiling a list of global cities. The
designation is typically reserved for strategic locations of international
finance, trade, and production services. Yet in Relocating Global
Cities From the Center to the Margins, the concept of the global
city is reframed with the argument that today, all urban centers
are being affected by globalization and, therefore, must all be
considered global cities. In addition, the editors of this collected
work—an outgrowth of a 2002 Globalization Research Center
project at the University of South Florida—maintain that a
better understanding of globalization can be achieved by examining
locales in varying stages of development—not just the international
superstars. Studying cities on the periphery of the standard globalization
literature helps “tease out more completely how specific conjunctures
of economic, political, and cultural power relationships actually
manifest themselves quite differently in the uneven spatial scapes”
across the globe.
And indeed, this volume, which comprises eight individual case
studies bookended by an introductory and concluding essay, offers
a helpful means for thinking about global change within the local
context. The editors Amen, Archer and Bosman begin by reviewing
two prevailing methods for analyzing global cities. The first, a
market-driven approach, emphasizes economic and technological dynamics,
while the second, an “agency-driven approach,” focuses
on local actors and context. Neither renders a satisfactory analysis
by itself, the editors contend, but rather, should be employed jointly.
In particular, they stress the need for empirical studies that can
help develop more nuanced globalization theories.
The chapters that follow seek to do just that. The participants
of the GRC project have pursued detailed analysis of very different
cities—Frankfurt, Johannesburg, Bangkok, Manila, Tampa, Brussels
and Caracas. In each case, they examine the specific circumstances
that encourage or impede global development, providing layered depictions
of complex local dynamics. For example, in 2000, local Australian
officials sought to create “Global Sydney,” in part
by undertaking an ambitious redistricting of the city’s spaces
and boundaries. The effort met with resistance from neighborhood
groups and set off a firestorm of political infighting. Ultimately,
Sydney’s residents persuaded officials to protect their neighborhoods
against redevelopment and gentrification.
Another chapter examines Johannesburg’s efforts to re-engage
with the global economy after 30 years of Apartheid, shifting from
gold mining and manufacturing to information and communication technology.
The author concludes that the city can only move forward if it addresses
its staggering crime rate, infrastructure limitations, and continuing
class and racial inequities. In Brussels, global potential is hampered
by officials and business leaders so embroiled in local concerns
that authors Erik Swyngedouw and Johan Moyersoen conclude that the
city “remains embedded in a provincial and parochial institutional
In the final chapter, the editors synthesize the case studies by
exploring five overarching patterns of development. They note, for
example, the frequent disconnect between local and national or transnational
objectives, and ask whether most local official and business leaders
appreciate the full impact of global change within their cities.
They suggest a need for greater critical evaluation by city leaders
in order to develop alternative, and often protective, visions for
development. Studies of globalization likewise need to recognize
that the process is not “inexorably homogenizing” but
profoundly contingent, “the result of ongoing social conflict
and negotiation.” Great numbers of empirically-based city
studies can do much to assist in developing more strategies, they
believe. While Relocating Global Cities is aimed primarily at geographers
and urban studies scholars, and makes for somewhat dry reading,
it offers useful insights into the complicated negotiations taking
place during this period of intensifying change.
Robin Tatu is a senior editor of Prism.