A conference for those interested in urban diversity.

Living Capital: Sustaining Diversity in Southeast Asian Cities

A Centre for Khmer Studies Initiating Urban Studies in Cambodia and Capacity Building in Higher Education Conference, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Institute for Cultural Enterprise, New School University

Phnom Penh, 10-11 January 2007

How can we identify, isolate and evaluate diversity in city life? What forms of human, cultural and social capital contribute to the distinct identities of Southeast Asia’s cities, and what strategies are available for sustaining such diversity? What place is there for local livelihoods in the changing life of Southeast Asian cities? How can cities modernize without losing the aesthetic and creative value added by diversity? How can we harness or deploy the diversities of cities to stimulate economic growth, cultural enterprise and livelihood opportunities?

Internal migrations are changing the profile of urban populations across Asia. Globalization and commercialisation can be potent agents for change, but can also homogenize and disguise the local specificities of cities. Economic growth is essential to the vitality of cities, but without coeval investment in educational facilities, is unlikely to generate the diverse skills-base needed to give urban societies viable futures. Accelerated transnational flows of human resources and investor capital are sponsoring the transformation of some Asian cities in the images of key counterparts. In parts of Asia, the colourful economy of micro-vendors adds a diversity of consumer choice to city streets. The mixture of old and new buildings, as colonial pasts, consumer malls and the monumental architecture of Independence mingle in city spaces, can also enhance city vistas.

Creativity is a common twin of diversity: efforts to manage and contain artistic and cultural expressions in designated cultural zones can risk erasing the very randomness that stimulates creativity. Unplanned real estate development can erase past diversity of building uses, while beautification schemes do not always succeed in creating the atmosphere and magnetism associated with longstanding leisure spaces. The zoning of business and leisure districts can push residential areas to city peripheries, thus diluting the potent mix of human diversity central to the dynamism and energy long associated with the pull of cities.

In addressing such issues, this conference aims to stimulate debate on the strategies for sustaining human and cultural capital in the city. We particularly encourage new reflections on ways to mobilize and deploy the potential creativities inherent in the multiple intersections of city spaces and urban practices. All papers that engage with these topics with specific regard to contemporary Southeast Asia will be considered. We welcome contributions from a range of disciplines and interests, including sociologists, anthropologists, architects, urban geographers, urban planners, heritage experts, social economists, artists and cultural historians.

Abstracts of no more than 300 words, should be sent to

[email protected] by 15 November 2007