Michael H Goldhaber on Thu, 4 Dec 2008 05:59:06 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Saskia Sassen: Cities and new wars: after Mumbai

Though I have long been an admirer of Saskia Sassen, I don't find this  
particular piece to be very well thought out. Cities by their very  
nature contain large numbers of people in close proximity and always  
have. This makes and has always made them both possible centers of  
insurrection and difficult to control or conquer from without. An  
enemy entering a city either must come close to destroying it and its  
population or is likely to face endless surprise, sabotage and  
reprisal from within. That is why, historically, enemies often  
besieged cities for years (Granada, Leningrad) in attempts to starve  
them into submission or destroyed them instead of occupying them (as  
did the Crusaders and Tamerlane) or  in advance of occupation as the  
Soviets did Berlin near the end of World War II and the US did Tokyo..  
Cities have also been frequent sites of insurrection, from the Boston  
Tea party to the Paris Commune, to the Poznan riots, to Budapest in  
'56, etc. , etc. .

One thing newish about Iraq, which Sassen cites as an example of new  
forms is that with current levels of public awareness is  it is no  
longer possible to get away with inflicting the human suffering of a  
siege or near total destruction of a great city. Also the US invaders  
paid no attention to the well-known difficulties of conquest, instead  
expecting to be met with flowers. In the first Gulf war, Bush p?re  
knew or was advised that Baghdad could not be subdued without giant  
and presumably unacceptable numbers of casualties. Bush fils would  
have none of that and plunged in.

Cities today not only have crowds that assure that large numbers can  
be killed even by a few terrorists but have media to make sure the  
terrorist attack gets noticed far more widely than would a similar  
kind of attack in some more isolated locale. The Mumbai attack was  
very well suited to drawing such attention, partly because Mumbai is a  
media center, partly because of the Internet, including Twitter, and  
partly because of the dramatic unfolding of events rather than being  
one sudden blast. I am not convinced it has much in common with slum  
dwellers temporarily taking over sections of Rio.


On Dec 3, 2008, at 6:25 AM, Patrice Riemens wrote:
[Saskia Sassen wrote:]

> The Mumbai attacks of 26-29 November 2008 are part of an emerging  type of
> urban violence. These were organised, simultaneous frontal assaults  with
> grenades and machine-guns on ten high-profile sites in or near the
> central business and tourism district

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