From the beginning of the article:
When I visit different larger cities in the European Union today I quite often get a feeling of being in several cities all over the world – at the same time and in the same place … The diversity with respect to languages, urban architecture, cultural and social activities, shops, etc. makes our cities more interesting… today cultural diversity is also a necessity in order to make cities and societies more attractive and competitive in a global economy. There is no doubt that cultural diversity enriches our cities and societies with social, human and economic capital … (Bertel Haarder cited in Hamburger 2003:2).
“The cosmopolitan perspective is an alternative imagination, an imagination of alternative ways of life and rationalities, which include the otherness of the other. It puts the negotiation of contradictory cultural experiences into the centre of activities: in the political, the economic, the scientific and the social” (Beck 2002:18).
The rich cultural mix of cities in Europe, as elsewhere, is beginning to be constructed as an asset. Bertel Haarder (Danish Minister for Refugees, Immigration and Integration) describes in the Forward to a manifesto on Cultural Diversity in European Cities (2003) a direct, personal experience of cultural enrichment. This is matched by an acknowledgment of the economic contribution migrants make and recognition of the potential ‘ethnic’ business has not only to revitalise urban economies but also to create attractive locations for global firms. Nevertheless this appreciation of cultural enlivenment is voiced against a backdrop of the poverty and social exclusion experienced by many migrants from within and beyond Europe’s borders.
This paper looks at both the past influences on and present formations of this rich mix multicultural city. Our focus is on the impact of ethnic and cultural groups on the cultural and material landscapes of cities. These city landscapes, both semi-permanent (such as buildings, public spaces and cultural institutions) and transient (arts events and festivals) have been claimed as key signifiers of the ‘new’ multicultural urban experience and are becoming the objects of city planning, urban design, place making and (multi)cultural consumption (Christopherson 1994; Shaw, Bagwell & Karmowska 2004; Zukin 1996; Worpole & Greenhalgh 1999). Yet cities have their roots in a long, though often obscured, history of exchange and their landscapes have been, and continue to be, contested sites of cultural production and consumption. Much of this history can be excavated from the unacknowledged presence of cultural representations of ‘Other’ ethnic groups in the architecture, artistic movements and cultural institutions of cities. It can also be found in the hidden everyday landscapes of city life.