понедельник, 13 октября 2008 г.

S. Low et al. "Rethinking urban parks: public space and cultural diversity"

Chapter 1. The Cultural Life of Large Urban Spaces

Содержание главы
Security and Fear of the Other
Globalization and Increased Diversity
Theoretical Framework
Dissonant Heritage, Negative Heritage, and the Politics of Meaning
Cultural Values
What is Cultural Diversity good for?

Introduction

William H. Whyte set out to discover why some New York City public
spaces were successes, fi lled with people and activities, while others
were empty, cold, and unused. After seven years of fi lming small parks
and plazas in the city, he found that only a few plazas in New York City were attracting
daily users and saw this decline as a threat to urban civility. He began to
advocate for viable places where people could meet, relax, and mix in the city.
His analysis of those spaces that provided a welcoming and lively environment
became the basis of his now-famous “rules for small urban spaces.” And these
rules were used by the New York City Planning Department to transform the
public spaces in the city.
In this new century, we are facing a different kind of threat to public space—
not one of disuse, but of patterns of design and management that exclude some
people and reduce social and cultural diversity. In some cases this exclusion is
the result of a deliberate program to reduce the number of undesirables, and in
others, it is a by-product of privatization, commercialization, historic preservation,
and specifi c strategies of design and planning. Nonetheless, these practices
can reduce the vitality and vibrancy of the space or reorganize it in such a way
that only one kind of person—often a tourist or middle-class visitor—feels
welcomed. One of the consequences is that the number of open, urban public
spaces is decreasing as more and more places are privatized, gated or fenced,
closed for renovation, and/or redesigned to restrict activities. These changes
can be observed in Latin America as well as the United States, and they are
drastically reducing the number of places that people can meet and participate
in public life (Low 2000).
These changes are potentially harmful to other democratic practices that
depend on public space and an active public realm for cross-class and multicultural
contact. At least in New York after 9/11, very few places retain the cultural
and social diversity once experienced in all public spaces—but Washington
Square and Union Square still do. Further, an increased defensiveness and desire
for security has arisen since the terrorist attack. Concrete barriers, private
guards, and police protect what were previously open spaces and buildings.
The threat to public safety comes not only from the outside, but also from the
danger that Americans will overreact to the destruction of the Twin Towers by
barricading themselves, and denying opportunities for expressing a sense of
community, openness, and optimism.

Security and Fear of the “Other”
Long before the destruction of the World Trade Center, a concern with security
had been a centerpiece of the postindustrial American city, expressed in
its fenced-off, policed, and privatized spaces. Although many Americans have
based their concerns on a fear of the crime and violence they believe pervades
cities, this antiurban sentiment is often translated into a fear of the “other”
across social classes and has become a mainstay of residential and workplace
segregation ever since the development of suburbs. People began moving to the
suburbs to escape the insecurity of dirt, disease, and immigrant populations in
the inner city as soon as trolleys made commuting feasible. And suburbs offered
more than just a physical distance from the city—a more powerful social
distance emerged, maintained through a complex discourse of racial stereotypes
and class bias.
But even within cities, similar forms of social distance took shape. Today,
for instance, wealthy New Yorkers satisfy their desire for security by living in
separate zones and limited-access, cooperative apartment buildings. Other city
residents rely on neighborhood-watch programs and tolerate increasing restrictions
on residential behavior. Even in the face of declining crime rates, this
urban fear has ended up justifying more rigid controls of urban space.
The enhanced fear of terrorism—evidenced by increasingly novel surveillance
techniques—is only making it worse. New electronic monitoring tactics
are being implemented across the United States. Before September 11, 2001,
the prospect that Americans would agree to live their lives under the gaze of
surveillance cameras or real-time police monitoring seemed unlikely. But now
some citizens are asking for outdoor cameras to be installed in places like Virginia
Beach to scan faces of people at random, cross-checking them with faces
of criminals stored in a computer database. Palm Springs is wiring palm trees
with electronic eyes on the main business street. What were once considered
Big Brother technologies and infringements of civil liberties are now widely
treated as necessary for public safety—with little, if any, examination of the
consequences. What is at stake is the cost we are paying for this increased security,
measured not just in salaries of increasing numbers of police offi cers or
in retinal-scanning technologies, but also in the loss of freedom of movement
and the cultural diversity in public space that has been so characteristic of the
American way of life.
Globalization and Increased Diversity
With increasing globalization this trend has intensified. Two countervailing
processes are occurring. Large numbers of people are moving from developing
countries to more developed regions to obtain better jobs and education and
increasingly use the public spaces of the city. Yet while the macroenvironment
is becoming more diverse because of increased fl ows of immigrants, differences
in local population growth rates, and an overall “browning” of America, local
environments are experiencing increased vernacularization and homogeneity—
immigrant enclaves are growing in the city, and gated communities are
developing in the suburbs and edge cities. In this historical era of cultural and
ethnic polarization, it has become increasingly important to engage in dialogue
about these changes. How can we continue to integrate our diverse communities
and promote social tolerance in this new political climate? One way, we
argue, is to make sure that our urban parks, beaches, and heritages sites—those
large urban spaces where we all come together—remain public, in the sense of
providing a place for everyone to relax, learn, and recreate; and open so that we
have places where interpersonal and intergroup cooperation and confl ict can
be worked out in a safe and public forum.
In 1990 Setha Low, with the help of Dana Taplin and Suzanne Scheld,
founded the Public Space Research Group (PSRG) within the Center for Human
Environments at the Graduate School and University Center of the City
University of New York to address these issues. PSRG brings together researchers,
community members, and public offi cials in a forum of integrated research,
theory, and policy. The group provides a theoretical framework for research
that relates public space to the individual, the community, and to political and
economic forces. PSRG is concerned with the social processes that make spaces
into places, with confl icts over access and control of space, and with the values
and meanings people attach to place.
In our 15 years of studying cultural uses of large urban parks and heritage
sites, we have observed the local impacts of globalization: more immigrants,
more diversity, new uses of park space, less public money for operations and
maintenance, and greater sharing of management responsibility with private
entities. We have also witnessed responses and reactions to these changes such
as efforts to reassert old-order values through historic preservation and to
impose greater control over public spaces through surveillance and physical
reconstruction. We have documented how local and cultural misunderstand-
ings can escalate into social problems that threaten the surrounding neighborhoods,
triggering the same processes that we have seen occurring in small urban
spaces. Immigrants, in some ways the mainstay of the U.S. economy, after
9/11 have become the “other” who is feared. Restrictive management of large
parks has created an increasingly inhospitable environment for immigrants,
local ethnic groups, and culturally diverse behaviors. If this trend continues, it
will eradicate the last remaining spaces for democratic practices, places where
a wide variety of people of different gender, class, culture, nationality, and ethnicity
intermingle peacefully.
Lessons for Promoting and Managing Social and Cultural Diversity
Based on our concern that urban parks, beaches, and heritage sites might be
subjected to these same homogenizing forces, we began a series of research
projects to ascertain what activities and management techniques would encourage,
support, and maintain cultural diversity. These projects produced a
series of “lessons” that are similar to William H. Whyte’s rules for promoting
the sociability of small urban spaces, but in this case, these lessons promote
and/or maintain cultural diversity. Each lesson was derived from one or more
of our park ethnographies and will be illustrated in the following chapters.
These lessons are not applicable in all situations, but are meant to provide
a framework and guidelines for culturally sensitive decision making in park
planning, management, and design. They can be summarized in the following
six statements:

  • If people are not represented in historical national parks and monuments
    or, more importantly, if their histories are erased, they will not
    use the park.

  • Access is as much about economics and cultural patterns of park use
    as circulation and transportation; thus, income and visitation patterns
    must be taken into consideration when providing access for all social
    groups.

  • The social interaction of diverse groups can be maintained and enhanced
    by providing safe, spatially adequate territories for everyone
    within the larger space of the overall site.

  • Accommodating the differences in the ways social class and ethnic
    groups use and value public sites is essential to making decisions that
    sustain cultural and social diversity.

  • Contemporary historic preservation should not concentrate on restoring
    the scenic features without also restoring the facilities and diversions
    that attract people to a park.

  • Symbolic ways of communicating cultural meaning are an important
    dimension of place attachment that can be fostered to promote cultural
    diversity.


These lessons for promoting and sustaining cultural diversity in urban parks
and heritage sites are just a beginning. More research and experimentation will
be needed to fully understand the importance and diffi culties of maintaining
vibrant public spaces. But at the very least, the lessons demonstrate how
diversity can be an essential component of evaluating the success of any human
ecosystem. The remainder of this chapter discusses the theoretical and
the practical rationales for our position. We feel it is not enough to assert that
cultural and social diversity is critical to large urban sites; the argument needs
to be substantiated by current social theory and practice. There are economic
as well as ethical reasons for considering diversity as essential to the success of
any urban place. This chapter lays the groundwork for explaining why it is so
critical to planning, designing, and managing large urban spaces in the future.

Theoretical Framework


Social Sustainability


What do we mean by “social sustainability”? Following David Throsby’s (1995)
discussion, sustainability refers to the evolutionary or lasting qualities of the
phenomena, avoidance of short-term or temporary solutions, and a concern
with the self-generating or self-perpetuating characteristics of a system (Throsby
1995). Drawing a parallel with natural ecosystems that support and maintain
a “natural balance,” “cultural ecosystems” support and maintain cultural life
and human civilization (Throsby 1999a, 1999b). Sustainable development is the
preservation and enhancement of the environment through the maintenance
of natural ecosystems, while culturally sustainable development refers to the
preservation of arts and society’s attitudes, practices, and beliefs.
Social sustainability is a subset of cultural sustainability; it includes the
maintenance and preservation of social relations and meanings that reinforce
cultural systems. Social sustainability specifi cally refers to maintaining and
enhancing the diverse histories, values, and relationships of contemporary
populations. But to truly understand social sustainability, we need to expand
Throsby’s analysis by adding three critical dimensions:
1. place preservation
Cultural ecosystems are located in time and space—for a cultural ecosystem
to be maintained or conserved, its place(s) must be preserved (Proshansky,
Fabian, Kaminoff 1983; Low 1987). Cultural conservation and sustainability
require place preservation. This rather obvious point is crucial when dealing
with the material environment and issues of cultural representation.

2. cultural ecology theories
Anthropologists employ a variety of theories of how cultural ecosystems work
in particular places over time. For example, Bennett (1968; also see Netting
1993) modeled the ecological dynamics of natural systems to understand sociopolitical
changes in the cultural ecosystems of farmers. Cohen (1968) developed
a cultural evolutionary scheme to predict settlement patterns and sociocultural
development in the developing regions. Many of these cultural ecology theories
have been subjected to historical critiques; nonetheless, the dynamic and predictive
aspects of cultural ecosystem models are useful when examining social
change on a particular site (Barlett and Chase 2004).
The case of historic Parque Central in San José, Costa Rica, illustrates this
point. Up until 1992 Parque Central was a well-established, spatially organized
cultural ecosystem made up of shoeshine men on the northeast corner (fi gure
1.1), pensioners on the southwest corner (fi gure 1.2), vendors and religious
practitioners on the northwest corner (fi gure 1.3), and prostitutes and workmen
on the center inner circle. The established cultural ecosystem, however,
was disrupted in 1993 when the municipality closed the park and redesigned the
historic space (fi gure 1.4) to remove users perceived as unattractive to tourists
and the middle class (Low 2000).
The redesign, however, destroyed the social ecological balance. A new social
group, a gang of young men, took over the public space, creating a dangerous
and even more undesirable environment, and Nicaraguans, rather than Costa
Ricans, became the main inhabitants on Sundays. This case illustrates the fragility
of existing cultural ecosystems (and their diverse niches); when the sociospatial
niches (places) are destroyed, the system may not be able to maintain
itself any more effectively than before the intervention. In fact, the redesign of
a site, ostensibly to improve it, may create more problems and dysfunction if
the social ecology of the space is overlooked.
3. cultural diversity
The third important dimension is cultural diversity. Biological diversity, so
critical to the physical environment as a genetic repository and pool of adaptive
evolutionary strategies, has its social counterpart in cultural diversity. Cultural
diversity became a “politically correct” catchphrase during the 1980s in the
United States, but it has not been addressed in planning and design—much less
sustainable development—practice. While sustainable development includes
“maintaining cultural diversity” as a conceptual goal, there is little agreement,
much less research, on what it means. But cultural diversity provides a way to
evaluate cultural and social sustainability, and is one observable outcome of the
continuity of human groups in culturally signifi cant places.
This modifi ed cultural ecosystem/diversity model provides an effective theoretical
basis for defi ning social sustainability. But social sustainability encompasses
more than understanding cultural ecosystems and diversity. It implies
a moral and political stance to sustain sociocultural systems—maintaining
them, supporting them, and in some cases, improving them. And it is in this
sense that a new series of questions must be asked. Is social sustainability applicable
to all populations? We have been assuming that human ecosystems
do not compete with each other, but of course they do. A successful cultural
system can overrun another. Is this what we mean by sustainability—natural
selection of cultural ecosystems, and the fi ttest survives based on an evolutionary
or sociobiological model? Or should we be protecting weaker groups,
systems, urban niches from stronger ones? And who is the we? These are moral
and political questions that must be addressed in discussions of application and
practice.
Ultimately, when we discuss social sustainability, we need to address issues
at various scales: the local, the regional, and the global. Social sustainability
at the local scale has been illustrated by the examples discussed so far, that is,
understanding the cultural dynamics of a place so that specifi c individuals
and their histories and values are sustained at or near the park or heritage site,
across generations, and over time. At the regional scale, social sustainability
might be better conceptualized through a broader plan that supports not only
individuals but also neighborhoods, communities, churches, associations, and
the institutional infrastructure necessary for the survival of cultural values and
places of larger groups throughout history. Dolores Hayden’s The Power of Place
(1995; see also Hayden 1990) provides a vision of documenting and commemo-
rating cultural histories of minorities and women that goes beyond the local
and sustains larger elements of society. Social sustainability at the global scale
moves closer to David Throsby’s “sustainable development” based on intergenerational,
and cultural, equity and environmental justice.
Thus, social sustainability is the successful maintenance of existing cultural
ecosystems and cultural diversity. It is safeguarded when the systems of social
relations and meanings are inclusive, rather than exclusive. In this sense, social
sustainability is fostered by understanding the intimate relationship between
history, values, cultural representation, and patterns of use in any culturally
diverse context. In fact, the inclusion of local people, their histories, and their
values ultimately strengthens any park’s long-term social sustainability.


Cultural Property Rights


An equally powerful argument for cultural diversity can be made in terms of
the ethics of respecting cultural property rights. At the most basic level, ethics
is the consideration of the right way to live one’s life, particularly with regard
to interpersonal behavior (Lefkowitz 2003). But while ethics is about doing the
right thing, it does not necessarily mean the same thing in each situation. Stated
broadly, it is about being accountable for your actions and avoiding harm to
others, but interpreted in specifi c social, cultural, and historical situations.
Chris Johnston and Kristal Buckley (2001), when discussing the importance
of cultural inclusion in heritage conservation practice, point out that ethics
translates cultural values into actions. This translation is most easily seen in
cross-cultural or multicultural situations where many of the cultural assumptions
and values differ. Johnston and Buckley provide the example of how the
Australian Archaeological Association developed a code of ethics to regulate
the principles and conduct of its members in relation to Australian Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander peoples. “Among other things, this document acknowledges
the indigenous ownership of cultural heritage knowledge and the
primacy of the importance of heritage places to indigenous people” (2001, 89).
In this way, the Australian Archaeological Association defi ned what its ethical
relationship to indigenous cultural knowledge ownership would be and set
boundaries for appropriate behavior with regard to indigenous peoples and
their cultural heritage.
At the heart of the argument about cultural property rights are questions
about who owns the past and who has the right or responsibility to preserve the
cultural remains of the past. “These questions raise important philosophical
issues about the past. . . . They also bring to the fore both the diversity of values
associated with the preservation of cultural properties . . . and the confl icts of
interests of the various parties to the dispute” (Warren 1989, 5). Karen Warren
(1989) suggests that the way to understand the various arguments that occur
in a dispute is to organize them by what she calls the “3 R’s”: 1) the restitution
of cultural properties to their countries of origin, 2) the restriction of imports
and exports of cultural properties, and 3) the retention of rights by different
parties.
Within each of these categories, numerous arguments have been used to
substantiate why traditional or native cultural property rights should not be
respected. For example, Warren (1989) identifi es the use of “the rescue argument”
against cultural property claims by countries of origin when the cultural
properties at issue would have been destroyed if they had not been “rescued”
by foreigners with the ability to preserve them. Those who rescued the cultural
properties now argue that they have a valid claim to them. Other arguments
along these lines include the “scholarly access argument”—that scholars will
not have adequate access if cultural materials are returned to their country or
culture of origin, the “foreign ownership argument,” and the “humanity ownership
argument,” all of which have been used to dispute country-of-origin
claims. To resolve these antagonistic disputes Warren offers an integrative perspective
that emphasizes preservation as a goal and incorporates compromise
and consensus models for settling cultural property matters. The importance
of her solution, however, resides in her underlying ethical position that acknowledges
the importance of the diversity of values and perspectives involved
in any resolution of cultural heritage issues.
Museums such as the Smithsonian Institution also fi nd themselves at the
center of these ethical arguments. Ivan Karp (1992) suggests that “an acute
moral dilemma is raised by the acknowledgment that museums have responsibilities
to communities” (11). From this perspective questions arise about what
happens when one community makes a request that hurts or constrains another
community or that uses up a resource that would otherwise be shared.
Museums must decide who speaks for a community and whether the claims of
different groups are equally valid. In the case of the repatriation of material artifacts,
local as well as national communities and cultural groups are interested
in how museums make their decisions and conduct their affairs.
In order to adjudicate cultural property claims fairly, then, it is necessary
that all communities and cultural groups are included in the discussion. And,
we argue, there needs to be a place where they can meet and consider issues on
an ongoing basis. Heritage sites and urban parks are just two examples of public
spaces where these discussions can begin. The ethical imperative of cultural
property rights for those whose “culture” or “environment” is being utilized
or controlled by others rests on assumptions that power should be equitably
distributed and that all cultural groups have rights to their native inheritance
and/or home places. The same argument can be used to stress the importance
of maintaining the cultural diversity of parks, beaches, and heritage sites.
Community Participation, Empowerment, and Citizenship
But cultural property rights are not the only way to think about these ethical
issues. Wendy Sarkissian and Donald Perlgut (1986) give two reasons for
seeking community involvement in the use of parks and heritage sites: 1) it is
ethical, that is, in a democratic society, people whose lives and environments
are directly affected should be consulted and involved, and 2) it is pragmatic
because people must support programs and policies in order to mobilize their
participation. One might add that the cost of top-down approaches to maintaining
parks is staggering and that few governments can afford the economic
costs of imposing external controls. Yet the benefi ts of collaborative approaches
have not been fully realized. Even though community members who use a park
often possess the knowledge and physical proximity to park resources, they are
frequently not included in the planning and maintenance processes. This may
be because of mistaken attitudes on the part of park administrators about the
capabilities of residents and users, and because park managers do not have the
staff, language, or collaborative training to work effectively with local community
groups (Borrini-Feyerabend 1997).
Discussions of community participation and empowerment have become
increasingly important as cities have become more ethnically diverse and more
demographically and racially divided (Gantt 1993). Parks that originally served
relatively homogeneous white middle-class or working-class neighborhoods
must now provide recreation, educational and social programs, and relaxation
for an increasingly multicultural and multiclass population. Mayors and city
council members, as well as park managers and planners, are hard-pressed
to mediate the confl icts that arise as park resources are stretched thin and as
neighborhoods deteriorate because of the inability of local government to provide
adequate services for all residents. And as we already know from the history
of decreasing municipal funding, parks and heritage sites are low priorities
when education and health care needs loom large.
The question arises, then, whether increased cultural diversity in the city
can be utilized to improve the lives of residents (Gantt 1993). We argue that it
can by empowering local groups to voice their needs and claim their histories
in both local and national park contexts. By empowering communities to claim
park resources as their own and to engage in the decision-making process
that allocates funds and labor for park maintenance and programming, park
managers gain collaborators in keeping the park well-attended, safe, and wellmaintained.
At the same time, city administrators and park planners learn
more about the diverse needs of ever-changing neighborhood social and cultural
groups and their values, making it possible to more accurately match
cultural group needs with available resources.
There are a number of urban programs that have used community participation
and empowerment strategies to structure the running of local cultural
resources and park offi ces. For example, the “Charleston Principles” of Seattle,
Washington, require that any proposed change include a community cultural
planning process involving a broad spectrum of community members—public
agencies, civic and social groups, educators and students, business and
economic interests, artists, community leaders, and cultural organizations of
all types. In this way, community empowerment is a legally mandated part of
any planning and design process (King County Landmarks and Heritage Program
1999).
Another example is “Taking Action,” a project in Australia that has produced
a handbook for actively involving communities in heritage projects (Johnston
and Clarke 2001). Using the same ethical and practical arguments we have discussed
here, the authors see community involvement as part of participatory
democracy whether a project is run by an elected government or initiated and
directed by the community itself. By involving the community, it is possible to:
1) understand community aspirations and values, 2) fi nd out about community
needs, 3) learn about the locality and community, 4) share perspectives, 5) fi nd
out about differences as well as similarities, and 6) ultimately create new solutions
that draw upon a wider range of ideas (2001, 3). Johnston and Clarke’s
report supplies a checklist of ways to communicate with people and involve
cultural groups, and it is an excellent guide for beginning any community involvement
project.
Other collaborative programs emphasize the inclusion of indigenous communities
often overlooked in park planning and administration and marginalized
by local politics. Barbara Harrison (2001) summarizes the experiences of
working with indigenous groups and researchers in North America as well as
New Zealand and Australia to develop her guide to collaborative working relationships
in research and applied practice.
The concept of citizenship, and its accompanying rights, underlies each of
these projects. The liberal notion of citizenship defi nes people as individuals
who have civil, political, and social rights within the nation-state. But this
defi nition is limited in that citizenship must also be considered full membership
of a community within a neighborhood, region, or state, and membership
of individuals within one or more community groups. Citizenship should
be understood as inclusive of state, regional, neighborhood, and community
levels of individual participation, thus producing a multistranded and multilayered
model of the sociopolitical relationship of people and society (Yuval-
Davis 1998).
Most debates over citizenship are about the basic right of entry into a country—
whether a person can stay, maintain a residence, and not be repatriated—
and about work-status issues, participatory duties such as voting, and
availability of social welfare benefi ts. But these same notions can be applied to
the rights of individuals and groups to participate in decisions about places,
resources, and services that touch their lives. We argue that citizenship also
should focus on the role that individuals and communities play in determining
the success or failure of their local open spaces and historic resources. Full citizenship
includes community involvement and participation in the ongoing life
of the neighborhood and region, and as such it provides another justifi cation
for community empowerment and participation in park planning processes. If
all community and cultural groups are included, then we are also empowering
citizen-leaders and participants who will continue to contribute to the area and
its growth and stability over time.
Dissonant Heritage, Negative Heritage, and the Politics of Meaning
With the empowerment of community and cultural groups, however, there
emerges a set of problems and confl icts that J. E. Tunbridge and G. J. Ashworth
(1996) have called “dissonant heritage.” The concept of dissonant heritage is
derived from the idea that heritage is a contemporary product shaped by history
in which different narratives exist. Dissonance in heritage suggests a discordance
in these histories and lack of agreement and consistency in the way
that the past is represented (Tunbridge and Ashworth 1996). Dissonant heritage
is present whenever there is more than one meaning for an object, place, or
landscape; most often it is embedded in a confl ict between tourism and sacred
use of a site or between global and local meanings (Graham, Ashworth, and
Tunbridge 2000).
The creation of any heritage site—and any park, we would add—“potentially
disinherits or excludes those who do not subscribe to, or are embraced
within, the terms of meaning defi ning that heritage” (Graham, Ashworth, and
Tunbridge 2000, 24). It is a common condition in multicultural societies in
which inclusiveness is determined by a group’s proximity to political and economic
power. Despite the development of pluralist societies, heritage—and
many other aspects of the landscape and built environment—often refl ects only
the dominant culture. Certain European societies typically do not acknowledge
their former colonial subjects (Graham, Ashworth, and Tunbridge 2000), while
white Americans often avoid recognizing their being the benefi ciaries of slavery
and the early dependence on slave labor in the plantation economy.
Kenneth E. Foote (1997) addresses these issues of unresolved meaning
and the politics of memory by arguing that the invisibility of some violent or
tragic events, especially those dealing with minority populations such as African
Americans or Latinos, indicates a certain tolerance or acceptance of such
events as part of American life (294). Other tragic events, such as the Battle of
Gettysburg, are celebrated as fundamental to understanding the American past.
This dual tendency—to ignore and to celebrate—refl ects Americans’ ambivalence
toward events that both bind and divide us and “casts un unusual shadow
over American history and the American landscape” (Foote 1997, 294). Thus,
the practice of telling all sides of the story and of uncovering uncomfortable
and confl icting views of the past that produce dissonant heritage has never
been popular. But the pervasiveness of dissonant heritage is vital to our discussion
of urban parks and public spaces in that it provides another rationale
for why cultural diversity and community inclusiveness are so important. The
negotiation of dissonant meanings and their resolution in forms representative
of all cultural groups and communities is the ideal toward which we should be
working.

Cultural Values


In historical preservation practice “values,” like ethics, means the morals and
ideas that guide action as well as the specifi c qualities and positive characteristics
of things as seen by a particular person or group (Mason 2002). Sociological
approaches consider values “generalized beliefs about what is or is not
desirable, but also as motives . . . that infl uence people’s actions” (Feather 1992,
111). Psychologists such as Joel Lefkowitz (2003), on the other hand, defi ne values
as “relatively stable cognitive representations of what the person believes
are desirable standards of conduct or generalized end states” (139; also see 151);
Lefkowitz adds that values have emotional and evaluative importance to one’s
ideal self-concept, and provide motivation for people’s actions and choices. In
our discussion, we draw upon elements of each of these defi nitions and utilize
the concept to refer to the meanings and feelings, positive or negative, that
people attribute to their lives, environment, actions and behaviors, and world
as a whole. Values, however, are not inherent in an object, action, or landscape
but are contingent on the circumstances—the place, time, and company—in
which a judgment is being made. As opposed to the psychological defi nition of
values as relatively fi xed and stable within a person, our perspective identifi es
community values as often fl uid and changing, although they may be relatively
fi xed depending on the domain.
“Cultural values” refers to the shared meanings associated with people’s
lives, environments, and actions that draw upon cultural affi liation and living
together. They are often expressed as value judgments, that is to say, something
is considered bad or good depending on how it registers with a person’s
or group’s attitudes at a particular moment. These value judgments, usually
expressed as liking or disliking some person, place, or object, provide information
about underlying unspoken cultural assumptions, beliefs, and practices.
Cultural values are our best indicators as to what people think and feel about
a landscape such as a park or heritage site, and they can act as a guide to understanding
park use and disuse, place attachment or lack of it, and symbolic
meanings. According to Randall Mason, “sociocultural values are at the traditional
core of conservation—values attached to an object, building, or place
because it holds meaning for people or social groups due to its age, beauty,
artistry, or association with a signifi cant person or event or (otherwise) contributes
to processes of cultural affi liation” (2002, 11).
We would add that cultural values also accrue to objects, buildings, and
landscapes through living in a place for a long period of time, working in a
place, narrating stories and telling myths about a place, and engaging in any
activity that would generate a relationship between a person or group and a
particular location. This kind of “cultural place attachment” (Altman and Low
1992; Low 1992) often develops between people and places, particularly places
such as parks, beaches, and heritage sites that have potential meaning and cultural
signifi cance through their ongoing use and role in memory making.
One important concern when discussing cultural values is that the term cultural
is politically as well as socially constructed and manipulated for a variety
of ends. Cultural values, similar to cultural identities, are not necessarily defi nable
attributes that can be measured or codifi ed, but they must be understood
as negotiated, fl uid, and context-dependent. The political importance of a
neighborhood can change depending on how the residents present themselves
and their values to the various players involved. Sociopolitically constructed
cultural labels such as black, African American, white, Jamaican, or Haitian
evoke different meanings and responses from New York City offi cials and planners
and are actively manipulated by the community in neighborhood descriptions
and media coverage (Low 1994). Poor people and their values, however,
are often the most vulnerable because the local constituency does not have the
political and economic power to struggle against the defi nitions and decisions
of government offi cials and private entrepreneurs.
Further, processes of cultural hegemony—that is, the preeminence of one
cultural group’s ideas and values over another’s—maintain the control of
middle- to upper-middle-class white values over the defi nitions of what can
be considered relevant to other cultural groups in a neighborhood or region
(Lawrence and Low 1990). The values of planners, managers, administrators,
designers, and National Park Service employees are also hegemonic because of
the entrenched belief that professionals know more than the local community.
Yet when elites and professionals dictate what should happen to an urban space,
their landscape preferences do not necessarily correspond to the needs and desires
of the local users.
Cultural values and their representation in park planning and renovation
processes are decisive in producing programs that will work in a specifi c community
location. Prospect Park, discussed in Chapter 3, is an excellent example
of how local cultural values do not necessarily match the values of the professionals
who are managing the park and making decisions about renovations
and fi nancial investment in the park’s future. Relying on professional expertise
rather than taking seriously cultural values about park resources reinforces the
traditional inequality of power relations and exacerbates race and class confl ict
already in evidence. Another example of the importance of understanding cultural
values is discussed in Chapter 4, on the Ellis Island Bridge Proposal. Historic
preservationists did not understand why it would be important to build a
bridge for local residents until they confronted the value placed on visiting the
park in large family groups by the black community. Suddenly the $7.50 price
of a ferry became $75.00 for 10 family members, putting visiting or attending
programs or activities out of the reach of these families.

What Is Cultural Diversity Good For?


Ulf Hannerz (1996) suggests that the value of diversity is so entrenched in the
contemporary discourse about culture that it is diffi cult to refl ect clearly on it.
So he offers what he calls his “seven arguments for diversity” to make the point
that there are many basic reasons to consider cultural diversity important to
our lives. He includes many of the points that we have made in this discussion
and adds others that we have not emphasized, arguing that cultural diversity is
important because it provides:

1 the moral right to one’s culture, including one’s cultural heritage and
cultural identity;

2 the ecological advantage of different orientations and adaptations to
limited environmental resources;

3 a form of cultural resistance to political and economic domination
by elites and power asymmetries and a way to counteract relations of
dependency;

4 the aesthetic sense and pleasurable experience of different worldviews,
ways of thinking, and of other cultures in their own right;

5 the possibility of confrontation between cultures that can generate new
cultural processes;

6 a source of creativity; and

7 a fund of tested knowledge about ways of going about things. (Hannerz
1996, 56 –57)

We would add that attention to cultural diversity also leads to community
empowerment, expanded citizenship, and the involvement of people in the
governance and maintenance of their neighborhoods and workplaces. It expands
the notion of individual rights of citizenship to include the survival of
one’s culture and/or cultural group, and the marking of its importance in the
landscape. We would also add that creativity from cultural contact and interaction
fl ows from cooperation as well as from working out solutions to confl icts
and confrontation. Therefore, cultural diversity, utilized effectively and honestly,
leads to more democratic practices and peaceful relationships between
people within a locality especially if all groups are treated equally with respect
for their needs, desires, and adequate space and resources for work, home, and
recreation.
We end this introduction where we began, by asserting how crucial understanding
cultural diversity and community values is to having a successful park,
beach, or heritage site. Assessing social and cultural values remains the best way
to monitor changes in the local neighborhood or region, and we offer a number
of ways to elicit and collect these values in the following examples. Each
case study emphasizes one of the lessons for large urban spaces. For example,
Independence National Historical Park focuses on cultural representation and
its impact on local group attendance. But each case also encompasses all of the
lessons. Any inclusive urban space exemplifi es many of these principles and
others that we have not yet examined.
This book begins a conversation between social scientists—anthropologists
and environmental psychologists—and the decision makers who direct, design,
plan, and manage our nation’s parks, beaches, and heritage sites. The goal
is to contribute what we have learned from our research experiences to making
urban parks the best places they can be for the most people. Parks offer urban
residents a place away from home that is essential to their physical and men-
tal health and well-being. This is particularly true for the poor and workingclass
residents who do not have backyards, much less vacation homes, where
they can rest and recreate. We hope the lessons and the research on which they
are based help to improve and promote these socially important and wonderful
places—the urban parks, beaches, and heritage sites of New York and the rest
of the Northeast.

(c)

Low, Setha M.
Rethinking urban parks : public space and cultural diversity / Setha Low, Dana Taplin, and
Suzanne Scheld. — 1st ed. 2005, University of Texas Press

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