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Bazaar City Extraordinaire
Few people can imagine India without calling to mind its vast cultural, spiritual, and natural splendor. So, too, few non-Indian's can bring to mind the nation without imagining sprawling squalor, chaos (to the western mind), and the history of Gandhi. However, there is much more to India today that few non-Indians understand -- that is that the nation, once one of the most disadvantaged in the world, is now rising as one of the nations "most likely to succeed" educationally, economically, as well as politically.
New Delhi, the capital of modern India is an excellent representation of India as a whole. Sprawling over the Yamuna River, it has long held great governmental, political, and historical importance as the "seat of power" of several dynasties over the centuries. However, just where it "fits in" in the "taxonomy of cities," referred to in the work, "What is the Nature of the 21st Century City?" By Eric Heikkila, can give one pause.
In his work, Erik Heikkila demonstrates that today's modern cities typically can be defined by their overriding characteristics and history in order to place them in a model category aimed at allowing a good understanding of the "type" of any particular city. For instance, in the following table, taken from his work, one can clearly see where four "key" modern cities fit into his taxonomical model according to their characteristics in "cultural values," "temporal identity," "market values," and spatial identity:
Of course, the reasoning behind the importance of classifying major cities according to their "taxonomy" is to allow one to better "visualize" the unique tensions surrounding the existence and growth forces of a particular city. For example, by placing a city on the taxonomical model, one can visualize its unique relationship/tension between its cultural values and its market values (the horizontal axis), while also visualizing its tension between its importance spatially vs. temporally (the vertical axis).
Thus, by classifying any major city into one of the four areas, one can gain powerful insight into just what any particular city represents economically, socially, culturally, as well as traditionally -- in short, the very "nature" of the city. Not only can this help understand the current "place" of that city in the individual country involved, but its place in the world. Further, understanding its classification also helps to understand its likely path of development in the near future.
Of course, in the case of New Delhi, its unique historical importance, as well as rich political history as a "centralized" area of far reaching power seems, perhaps to place the city deep within the "Traditional City" quadrant. After all, its rich historical heritage seems to demand such treatment (at least in the minds of many Indians). However, there is much evidence to show that more than a center of "cultural values" (especially religious), New Delhi is (and has been) more of a political/power base. Although this does give it unquestionable importance in the "spatial" identity area, it seems that political or governmental influence seems to bend more closely toward ideas of market values rather than cultural identity. Further, this, coupled with the striking explosion of modernization and commercial activity in the city seems to more accurately place it in the "Bazaar City" category.
When one considers the history and current place of New Delhi as a quintessential "capital" city, it is easy to see its significance. As referred to earlier, "Historically, the city has long since been the foremost in political importance with successive dynasties choosing it as their seat of power, between the 13th and the 17th centuries (GNTD, 2004)." Further, beautiful and well preserved reminders of this past continue to survive as "monuments" to the different dynasties in various parts of the city.
However, although the history of the city is rich, its "traditional" significance is not sufficient to place it in the "Traditional City" category. This is simply because political history alone does not "root" a city into a "cultural space." According to Heikkila, "A traditional city is one where cultural values dominate, and where identity is strongly rooted in place." Although Delhi does have a rich cultural tradition, it is not particularly tied to the place for cultural or religious reasons. Instead, many different ruling cultures and dynasties found it necessary to assert their power by placing its seat in the former "seat" of the previous dynasty.
Take, for example, New Delhi's current growth boom can directly tie itself to similar modern factors of the changing political backdrop surrounding the city. Take, for instance, that the changing political landscape in North India in the 1940's, especially the partition between India and Pakistan in 1947. Not only did this mark the beginning of New Delhi as the capital of independent India (from the British), but it also marked the departure of much of the Muslim population and an influx of Hindus and Sikhs (Travelite, 2004).
Thus, even with this change of the population demographic, one can clearly see that the focus of the city's identity is on political power and representation, not idealistic meaning of place. Further, its immense growth in the commercial and industrial realms also underscore the strong commercial connection between its political power base and financial interests. Both of these characteristics place New Delhi firmly in the Bazaar City quadrant.
Consider, for example, New Delhi's immense growth in modern times. Due to the immense economic liberalization reforms launched by then Prime Minister Rao in 1991, huge amounts of foreign investment came to the city (Fodor's, 2004). Not only did this cause land prices to skyrocket in the heart of the commercial and industrial areas, but it also pushed the "urban sprawl" of the city outward, both as a result of the increasing prices of land, as well as due to the massive influx of workers. Thus, according to many, the vast growth pushes the city into the category of a veritable "commercial capital," where:
" ... cultivated fields which till recently could be seen on the outskirts of the city have been developed into residential colonies and commercial complexes. High-rise buildings now stand check-by-jowl with Delhi's 1300 monuments. Villages such as Khirkee, Begumpur, Hauz Khas, Sheikh Sarai and Nizamuddin, which grew around medieval Delhi's, shifting capital "cities," have now been engulfed by the urban sprawl. Many of them, however, retain their old-world characteristics (Travelite, 2004).
It is important to note, however, that it is precisely these "old-world characteristics," that give New Delhi its definite spatial (as opposed to mere temporal) identity. After all, although Delhi is a modern commercial center, it certainly does not fit into the "Modern City" quadrant. Instead, its rich "capital city" heritage does give it a firm spatial identity that cannot be denied. In fact, two of its remaining monuments (Qutb Minar and Humayun's Tomb), have been named "World Heritage Sites" by the UNESCO World Heritage Center.
Thus, it is exactly these two driving characteristics -- the rich political/power history of the city, as well as its commercial growth and importance that make it a "Bazaar City." As Heikkila writes:
... There has already been discussion about how markets and traditional cultures can be compatible, as evidenced by any thriving traditional marketplace. One need not stretch much further then to conceive of cities that combine market values with place-based identities.
Not only does New Delhi seem to fit within this description very well, so does it fit with Heikkila's "example city" in the quadrant, Hong Kong. After all, like Hong Kong, New Delhi was also a traditional capital appropriated by colonialist rule. Further, under this colonialism, it began to flourish both economically as well as spatially as the capital of the surrounding economic/commercial territory. Hong Kong is a "marketplace," and its citizens are characterized as "marketers" producing and thriving off of the vast commercial significance and activity of the city. So, too, following independence and partition, New Delhi citizens function as the driving forces behind its commercial success.
Given, then, that New Delhi is a Bazaar City, one can assume that its place as well as its commercial success are vital to its prospects for continued importance as well as growth. In fact, it is this realization that clarifies just why the Heikkila's quadrant model is so important.
Although it is unquestionably important to know if there is a growing trend toward increasing shifts toward a particular quadrant, it is also important to know particular cities taxonomy in order to predict the likelihood of its growth in a particular pattern. For example, a city like New Delhi, where its commercial activity is pared with a strong spatial identity pushes it toward the bazaar quadrant. This has implications for its future -- especially its likelihood of continuing to exist as a major city. After all, its spatial significance is strong insurance for its continued survival, even if its commercial prospects falter. However, a city like Redmond, Washington (the capital of Microsoft), exists purely within the "modern" quadrant. Although it is…[continue]
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