Saskia Sassen on Thu, 4 Dec 2008 05:59:37 +0100 (CET)

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

hi, thanks for the comments. very helpful! and here two comments that  
might help clarify.(please excuse the allthe typos. i wrote this at  
great speed becasue i wanted to get it out right aftr i read  
M.Goldhaber's comments. I agre with much of what Michael says re  
history of cities, and i accept his scepticism about my new study. it  
is a bit experimental indeed. but eachone of my porjects has entailed  
going out on a wing a bit.

1) I am mostly interested in the modern period, and specifically in  
the notion of the growth of asymmetric armed conflict and global  
warming. I wish I could deal with older histories of cities, and  
city-states. but I can't/ I am not a historian etc.. Further I am  
particularly interested in how the civic in this modern period was  
constructed  (the civic is ocnstructed differently in different  
periods and places).

We might use public infrastructures and the welfare state as a standin  
for hta fuzzy concept "the civic." A working public health or  
transport system has to override the little and bid differences that  
feed racisms, intolerances etc. So it can be a sort of model. My  
question then is: does that stil work todya?  and my second question  
is: are there challenges today that are larger than our differences   
of religion, race, and the hatreds these can produce. (For instance,   
global warming will hit coastal cities hard and if we are going to be  
serious about reducing the damage, we wil have to work at it together,  
no matter our differences; or, a kind of denationalized culture we see  
emerge in larger cities is allowing young people to experience life  
and their surroundings in far less racializing and gednered ways than  
older generations. this may not be  amajority culture, but it is an  
emergent powerful trend.

2) It has been my practice to study the x  not in terms of the  
characteristics of the x, but also, and often especially, in terms of  
the non-x conditions and forces within which that x is embedded or  
from which it arises. So, with Mumbai, that means I do not simply wnat  
to think of Mumbai in terms of the old and new terrorisms, and  
religious hatreds that have marked the region. that is part of it,  
very importantly , it markes the specificty of that attck. But does it  
explain in ways that open up the x. I want to consider the possibility  
that we are dealing with deeper systemic shifts, and that cities and  
nonasymmetric conflicts capture something, make something legible  
about those deeper transformations.  ((on the x vs non-x approach, i  
elaborate in ch 1 of my Territory, Authority, Rights book

thanks for the chance to think a bit more about this new project of mine.

Saskia Sassen
Robert S.Lynd Professor of Sociology
Department of Sociology
Committee on Global Thought
Columbia University
422 Fayerweather Hall
1180 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY  10027
T - 212.854.0790
F - 212.854.2963
E/M -

Quoting Michael H Goldhaber <>:

>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

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