Arrival City

Tuesday, 3 January, 2012

“We will end this century as a wholly urban species.” That’s the startling claim made by Doug Saunders in the preface to Arrival City, his excellent book on the global transformation that’s taking place as huge numbers of people abandon rural life to build a better future in the city. But it’s not just any city that Doug Sounders concerns himself with, which is why he has coined the term “arrival city” to describe the places that are the new magnets for the new migrants and where, he contends, that “the next great economic and cultural boom will be born, or where the next explosion of violence will occur.”

Arrival City The question, then, is not so much “What is an arrival city?” as “Where is an arrival city?” And in answering the question, Saunders brings us to places with names such as Petare, Mulmund, Karail, Dorli, Kibera and Shenzhen. Then there’s Los Angeles. As an “arrival city”, Los Angeles is a great success, says Saunders, “because it is constantly sending its educated second generation into more prosperous neighbourhoods and taking in waves of new villagers, in a constantly reiterated cycle of ‘arrival, upward mobility, and exodus.'” In Los Angeles, this has led to the development of effective immigrant political cultures and the culmination of all this was the election in 2005 of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, “the first arrival-city child to end up running one of the America’s major cities,” as Saunders puts it.

At a time when the rural-urban equation is changing as never before, Arrival City deserves a wide readership.

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