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Assist. Prof. Dr. Müberra YÜKSEL Kadir Has University
I. INTRODUCTION In this paper, I have employed two films to reveal the significance of both cultural and urban issues with particular reference to Asia. The fırst film is Babel (2006) and is about the aftermath of 9/11 and its impact on discrimination against diverse segments in different parts of the world. It is also about cultural transformation and diversity concerns in different regions and continents. The second film Ecumenopolis (2011), which is a documentary on urban transformation and globalization processes in Istanbul is a case study of an emerging global city. Under late capitalism characterized by space and time compression (Harvey, 1989), the global, regional and local, the familiar and strange, the real and the virtual have become inextricably intertwined, while creating a 'transnational urban experience' as the ideal of boundless and undefined spatiality predominates a digital age of fragmented “post modernity” with its costs and benefits. Istanbul may be regarded also as a representative case in Asia. Films may help us put various aspects of conflict processes in multiple perspectives and enhance our self-reflexivity and moral deliberation to distant others as individuals. One may endeavor to understand how to invent the future with others from a constructivist standpoint. The “common language of suffering” and caring for others may shape events into more affirmative narratives of hope, understanding and humanity. II. A FICTION FILM: BABEL The first film’s title is from the story of the Tower of Babel (Ziggurat) at the site of Babylon in which God punishes mankind for the arrogance and pride in attempting to build a tower leading to the Heaven. This mythological story highlights different cultures, languages and values as the origins of diversity. As a punishment of an act of defiance, God has separated mankind into different races divided by diverse languages; consequently, there is chaos and lack of communication. Babel (2006) is the final part of the Trilogy by Inarritu who has directed the prior two films, i.e., Amores Perros and 21 Grams. The film Babel depicts the dark side of the human condition, that is, confusion and mistrust caused by the inability to communicate. With three stories set in Morocco, Mexico and Japan, Babel shows how connected local issues become global and how misreading of events may lead to unintended consequences in different regions of the world. In the narrative of the film, the series of tragedies started with a Moroccan shepherd who acquires a rifle. His two young sons, while playing with the rifle, accidentally shot an American woman riding with her husband in a sightseeing bus. American officials interpret this as an act of terrorism which is immediately on the global news. Meanwhile, in the United States, the American couple’s baby-sitter is taking care of their kids, while her son is preparing for his wedding in Mexico. Finally, in the third story, a deaf Japanese girl is trying to cope with the recent suicide of her mother and her father whom she thinks does not pay enough attention to her. The third story’s connection to the other two is not developed more
who is desperately in need of love.it is far from being the principal barrier. the film explores the ways in which cultural assumptions and biases tend to conceal facts even when they are simple and obvious. the director Inarritu is interested in conveying more through his film than just despair. As James Sebenius states viewing the world without the aid of filters of stereotypes is rather difficult since forming stereotypes has almost become a “natural reflex” (2002). stereotypes or misunderstandings and indifference. Thus. still the American couple was prejudiced about what she represents and they misjudged the native woman. she merely wants someone to love and care for her. Yet. 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Further. first the media discourse coded it as a deliberate terrorist attack. the language and cultural barriers between the two strangers fall and they truly understand each other for the first time. The Mexican caretaker who takes the two American children of the couple across the border “without permission” in order to be at his son’s wedding is another story.than half way into the film. Although they find more sympathy and support from her than their fellow European and American tourists. On the whole. The husband offers him money for his help which he refuses. Arabic. All of the stories reveal people that have difficulty in expressing their identity and because of different languages and meanings lost in translation. although the stories unfold in four countries and in five languages . in Japan. the media stereotyping” on terror and fundamentalism has acted as cultural codes and was demonstrated in values and behaviors of characters in the film. The final story is about a disobedient deaf Japanese teenager and her reserved father. the officer embraces her with compassion… Small human flaws snowball to have unintended and unimaginable consequences: One man's decision to buy a gun to protect his flock leading to so many events in various regions of the world… "Babel" is about the difficulty of human communication due to differences of language. He cannot accept money for doing the right thing. their translator is by their side. He has let the tour continue on without him. As a result.” Perceiving and becoming open to the diversity. as the American couple finally finds their way out of the village. In that moment. the wounded woman’s husband and the boys take her to a village. creating relationship with the others without judging them is not easy. regardless of whether he loses his job or no to make sure that this couple will be all right. the film also shows how our perceived differences make our life complex as well as how we . a police arrested her for kidnapping the children and she was deported. Similarly. Instead. listen with full awareness. Spanish. they are left in isolation. The motto of the film may be summed up as “If you want to be understood. social classification. prejudices.English.for empathizing with another human being. Then. Observers often note increased skepticism and fear that cross-cultural or identity-based disputes might prove more volatile and intractable and that communicative reconciliation processes might be ineffective in changing conflict perceptions. Babel can be considered as an epic of confusion in response to the shock of the September 11th. the police officer that the young deaf girl has attempted to attract understands that she is not asking for physical intimacy. So. While they were coming back to the United States. An Arabic speaking woman wearing a black chador tried to help them. For instance. Japanese and sign language. The three intersecting story lines revolve around parents and children and the fear of losing the loved ones on three different continents: When the boys test the rifle and unintentionally shot the American woman on the tourist bus passing by. and attitudes. Transformational issues have become even more challenging in the troubling aftermath of the 9/11 event. culture.
simultaneously with the fact that many of our human experiences are the same irrespective of all these differences. it is a complex. multidimensional phenomenon “that involves different levels. The film is inviting us to get past the babble of realistic discourse and start listening and understanding each other through caring and daring to act accordingly. 1997. As such. there is a need for cultural awareness and sensitivity. trajectories. 4). of signs and images which stand for or represent things.become indifferent to others and why we are detached from life and truth. CULTURAL TRANSFORMATION AND SENSITIVITY Globalization has been defined as “the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa” (Held. Discourse is a tool of power. race. The three major theories about discourse are: the reflective. which is an uneven process is going on as a consequence of globalization and connectedness. Such a discourse is ideologically manipulated. tensions. in media how news stories are constructed so that they will be “comprehensible” to a particular audience is significant. dynamics. Globalization cannot be analyzed only in terms of polar discrete opposites but should be seen as a borderline situation between two historical epochs. 9). 1991. For instance. 3). p. whereas others see it as increasing the hybridization of cultures and diversity. III. clarifying how discriminatory values are mediated in language by dominant groups and institutions that control over the media is significant despite the fact that most people are unaware of these manipulative influences and accept the imposed attitudes as “facts of life” (Bourdieu. flows. As Stuart Hall states: “Representation is an essential part of the process by which the meaning is produced and exchanged between members of a culture. intentional and constructionist. In Babel. money. Some people see globalization as increasing the homogeneity of societies. It does involve the use of language. p. In Babel. problems. power and religion. into which the social world is already “mapped” as our daily “thinking-as-usual“.” (1997: 15). and conflicts. Inarritu is attempting to break down cultural barriers between people and is treating all with equal respect. . therefore. Although cultural transformation. 1991). This involves bringing events “within the horizon of the “meaningful” and this entails referring unusual and unexpected events to the “maps of meaning” which form the basis of our cultural knowledge. Inarritu shows that emphasizing sensitivity to different cultures and exposure to different life styles. and possible futures” (Kellner. because by using language which promotes a particular view of the world these “maps of meaning” are disseminated to a much wider audience and they become the universal maps. As for Kellner we are in an “interregnum period between an aging modern and an emerging postmodern era” (1997. Parallel to the story of Babel. while he is regarding both civil and uncivil aspects as natural and human. such that a transdisciplinary social theory is necessary to capture its contours. p. which all emphasize language with different reasons of inquiry. The film makes us become aware of the multiple ways cultural differences may cause misunderstandings. languages rather than focusing on our worldly power and possessions make us develop and transform as individuals. nowadays the world is “threatened by” terrorism and is still divided by language. perspectives.
Another significant question is whether a cultural conflict is different in kind from prior examples of ideological conflicts in world politics. one may overcome biases (Sebenius.They make us became narrowsighted. therefore there is no static definition. values and behavior of individuals and/or the relationship between relevant parties or “stakeholders”. Reflective (Does the language simply reflect a meaning which already exists out there in the world of objects... it might be similarly probable to negotiate effectively between relatively hostile cultures. Through active listening and observing one might rise above these presumptions. Nowadays our cultures are media saturated and we spend one-third of our lives involved in the media. Our abilities to speak. and our own sense of identity are now shaped mostly by the media discourse. that is. Zizek. (Is the meaning constructed in or through language? ) which is recently often used in both international and communication studies (Fairclough. . Changing such sets of alternative lenses corresponds to stepping out of the frames of reference or orbits which are part of us and of our way of seeing and acting. However. therefore. Nowadays. people and events? ) Intentional (Does the language express only what the speaker or the writer wants to say. since group identities of “thick relations” that are close rather than distant strangers often determine our responsible choices (Margalit. Learning to learn corresponds to wiping out the conventional information we employ from .) Cultures are made up of communication processes and thus there are no separation between 'reality' and symbolic representation" (Castells. Media-based or community-based reality is “socially constructed”. active listening together with constructionist view is vital. negotiating workable solutions to specific pressing policy problems across blocs has been possible. there are three ways in learning to tell the same story of a cultural incident: by active-listening. Through “mindfulness”. 1996 pp 328. meaning a fundamental change in attitude. they can be used to justify the position of those in power to perpetuate social prejudice and inequality. but as our languages are… And our languages are our media. they might transform assumptions about particular groups of people into "realities". . 375). "complexity" and "interculturality" are overlapping concepts in communication. Our metaphors create the content of our culture (. think. Our media are our metaphors. which we might not even be aware of. his or her intentional meaning?) Constructionist approaches to representations. 2002. 2002: 126) Stereotyping can reduce a wide range of differences in people to binary black and white categorizations. an openness to new information and an awareness that more than one perspective exists. Since in many instances of ideological conflicts. forming relationships with others. Much would seem to rest on “transformation”. Castells claims that "we do not see reality as it is. which creates difficulty in seeing the reality for what it is …That is at the heart of the film Babel and how one can clarify his/her image and insight is brought into the attention of all spectatators. A Framework of Cultural Transformation Preconceptions obfuscate the reality within which we speak. 372-73. 1998). "Framing" and "learning to learn" are methods for understanding decisions since they refer to sets of alternatives from which choices can be made. the possible impact of films on human suffering and rights of distant others are also claimed to pave the way to “false activity” or to “ethical amnesia” due to compassion fatigue rather than forging an ethical community of human beings. In any dialogue or conflict resolution process. 1992). by being "neutral" and by reflecting upon the differences.
an become a global city.. which is more appropriate to the complexity of the world (Bakhtin. respect and learning required for the joint and creative solution to a problem. and paraphrasing Margalit’s and Geertz' distinction between thin and thick relations. heedless of his/her own emotions and ready to conceal or ignore her own reactions to what she hears. The ability to change deeply the rooted habits of perception-evaluation requires creativity and sensitivity to "the pertinence of context to meaning" that combines artistic or scientific competencies since these abilities are not reducible to a rational or to a technical analysis. unlearning) when we manage to confront these systemic and self-referential changes successfully. you are offended and angry and you decide that instead of reacting with violence. Greek architect and urban planner Constantinos Doxiadis came up with the concept of “ecumenopolis” in 1967 to describe his idea that all urban spaces and megalopolises in the . In other words. The politically correct attitude to adopt as an active listener (both thin and thick) is the direct opposite of what is conventionally expected on the part of a good participant observer/ mediator: impassive. economists and sociologists. we might talk of two schools of thought about active listening for constructivism. 1986). It asks whether İstanbul has a limit to its growth and whether an alternative strategy for development that would be more friendly towards the city dwellers’ needs and the original fabric of the city is possible. A RECENT DOCUMENTARY: ECUMENOPOLIS (CITY WITHOUT LIMITS) This documentary film investigates İstanbul’s ecological. demographic and economic limits with regards to urban growth and pressure to into one single city. You and the interlocutor are both ready for a fight or flight reaction and the double displacement is aimed at creating a situation of reciprocal recognition and respect. “displacement" becomes a necessary step to establish the mutual recognition. 1986). through interviews with architects. urban planners.e. and the interviewer/ observer needs to react with curiosity and respect to another persons' opinions and behaviors that (s)he might privately judge negatively. In knowledge management as well as conflict management scholars as diverse as Georg Simmel. Following E. “Exotopy” is adequate when you are part of a conflict. self-assured. neutral. The first one is well known and is based upon empathy. empathy is a simple condition of putting yourself in others’ shoes. environmental engineers. Kurt Lewin and Chris Argyris whose concept of "double-loop learning" is similar to learning to learn. while exotopy is a complex situation which requires a double displacement: you displace yourself in order to be able to displace the interlocutor. a context for a meta-communication . Habits that are ingrained that isare difficult to change and transform. IV. but with perceptive and evaluative thought. Barbara Gray and Mikhail Bakhtin. you are going to act in a way that apparently is unexpected: you are aiming at being “true” to all parties and stakeholders (Bakhtin. Nowadays. An intercultural discourse is not primarily concerned with behavioral patterns. the arrogance of the know-it-all and status derived from hierarchical position is replaced by an acceptance of vulnerability and closeness together with the modesty that comes from learning and growing continuously. That way. Hall’s low and high context. Empathy is sufficient when one is in a position similar to that of a person who is in control of the situation.memory (i. The second requires going beyond empathy and getting to exotopy or extralocality.
which he says will advance the service sector in city center. who defined it as a “a nightmare city. He criticized the latest city plan. He said the pattern of growth will bring about many changes to the social. Yalçıntan. they decay if they grow to an extent that it cannot cope with and then they die. He clamied that a plan which does not take a city’s inhabitants’ needs into consideration inevitably leads to social and economic problems. Alp addressed the İstanbul city administration to urgently take the necessary measures against further population growth in the city. including residents. mentioning that promoting economic growth in other provinces of Turkey would better.” “cancerous city” and a ‘city on steroids. As well as allowing democratic participation of city dwellers during the preparation stage of city planning. “Cities have their own life cycles. İstanbul is likely to become an ecumenopolis in the future with its enormous growth and population that reaches 30 million. A global society where there is virtually contiguous urban development separated only by major natural barriers has been called the ‘Ecumenopolis’. in the future as the pac of urban development and population is increasing on a global scale. which will mark place as well as represent chosen brand identities (Doxiadis 1976. and would hopefully bring about counter migration from Istanbul to the provinces. industrial investors and the labor force working in industrial centers have been negatively affected by the projects. consequently eviction of the urban poor from the city center to the peripery. where each building markets itself as a distinct sign. the İstanbul Environmental Order Plan (İÇDP). the democratic participation of city dwellers is of primary importance in urban planning. According to Yalçıntan. Asserting that the İstanbul city administration is following a neoliberal model of growth. adding that such comprehensive changes should be made according to a wellprepared plan. they are born.” said Alp. According to Alp. representing corporate identity and globalization. Yalçıntan exemplified these changes as moving industrial production centers and residents out of the city to the outskirts and opening profit-generating places. they grow. Yalçıntan said that a plan to be developed for such projects will provide people the opportunity to prepare themselves for the consequences of urban renewal. including lack of social integration and settlement for residents. The notion of the branded landmark is explored as a major public structure. 327). including luxurious hotels. economic and demographic structures of the city. The concept of ecumenopolis was first used in Turkey by Alp.” which has run out of its green spaces. warning the İstanbul city administration that the new projects are harming the city’s ecologic and historic make up. shopping malls and so on. Another project to be realized is building a third bridge over the Bosporus that will connect Sarıyer’s Garipçe village on the European side with Beykoz’s Poyrazköy neighborhood on the Asian side. including urban planners. … The film is about the urban transformation campaign of Istanbul.world will combine ecumenopolis. once a detailed city plan has been prepared by the common efforts of various experts. which was drawn up in 2009 and was prepared using only city experts’ opinions without consulting the public. or billboard. said it is seeking to boost foreign investment and turn İstanbul into the finance capital of Turkey. art historians and environmental . water and other natural resources due to enormous growth. Explaining that many people. given that they are the real users of urban space. Cities will increasingly be seen as brandscapes. The clearence of squatter settlements on the outskirts of the city for -redevelopment and the imposed gentrification of the inner slums. The main two reasons are: openning up to attract global capital and improving or rebuilding of houses against natural disasters-earhquakes and flood.
differences. and uncertainty (Harvey. With hyper mobility and space/time compression. shopping malls. the city has indeed emerged as a site for new claims: by global capital. people. in other words İstanbul’s lungs. and reintegrated into functional networks. indeterminacy. because such plans . and claimed that the green areas in the north of the city. which uses the city as an 'organizational commodity'. because such plans examine the ecological. URBAN TRANSFORMATION With globalization. He also stated that some remaining green areas that include the city’s reservoirs are also under threat because of a project to build a third bridge over the Bosphorus. Cities are virtualities with a set of architectural potentials which contain unpredictable elements.engineers. globalization of local culture. universal schemes and central authority. functioning as signs rather than places. network principles renounce rigidity. Places do not disappear. instability. There is no real and no imaginary. As post-modern turn results in fragmentation. metropolitan cities face accelerating uncertainty and competition that demand sustainable urban development through ‘strategic planning’. as places cannot exist outside of flows of information. . in times of fluidity and crisis. transactions. 2003). The proliferation of 'non-places'. offering plurality. the green areas inside the cities are diminishing day by day because of unplanned urbanization and rent-seeking new construction projects. except at a certain distance. immerse the consumer in a self-conscious form of ritual bearing little relation to any actual time or location. indistinguishable airports.” Yalçıntan said. or into image collages inducing a space of flows that substitute for a space of places. Localities become disembodied from their cultural.1989). gated communities. and managed and coifed "wilderness" areas that. Yet. “In addition to deforestation in the city’s outskirts. ambiguity.” Gönençgil said. In the information society the dominant form of social time is what Castells (1996) called timeless time. and multiplicity. fragmentation of spatial experience. incompleteness. The post-modern age is characterized by the commoditization of place. Castells (1996) argued that power resided in the network. which will be initiated at the end of 2011. the government and the city administration should act according to the plan. closed structure. are almost all gone due to urban migration and urban sprawl. 2010). The denationalizing of urban space and the formation of new claims centered in transnational actors and involving contestation cities constitute the global city as a frontier zone for a new type of engagement (Sassen. Availability of reliable information through adequate communication among stakeholders is at the crux of effective strategic decision-making and problem solving in urban policy making. theme parks. V. In numerous theses and articles: Gönençgil also thinks the remaining green areas in İstanbul will soon be destroyed. Such emergent dimensions and new communication system radically transforms space and time. 'the annihilation and manipulation of time and space by electronically managed global capital markets'. and goods. geographic meaning. contingency. Transforming cities into “an aesthetized commodities” and brands so that they are marketable to a global audience and become global cities (Karaman. old-worldly villages. historical. municipalities often focus on the improvement of inefficiencies or restructuring through an authoritarian form of neoliberalism in the short run rather than long term transformation by involving urban citizens. office blocks. privatization of public space (mallification). historical and socioeconomical characteristics of a city in a very detailed way. but their logic and their meaning become absorbed in the network as spaces or more.
1989). Theorizing cities with respect to their heterogeneous temporalities and spatialities has profound implications for rethinking urban theory and rethinking geographic regions. we need to supplement it with a more complex habit of thought. the aim is not to replace the mainstream market discourse.Cairo. Dakar. To the extent that the emergent “third world” city entails informal territories. it is much easier to move toward the simple (the reduction of frames). creativity and diversity of life styles due to high population density and operational effieciency. because it boils down to a reduction of frames of reference. CONCLUDING REMARKS Metropolitan or mega cities create opportunities for high productivity. revitalization projects and mega events are significant (Harvey. The same is true of the overwhelmingly described market. VI. The increasing construction of audiences as consumers can be seen as part of normalization and naturalization of consumer culture. one needs different . The world has experienced unprecedented urban growth in recent decades. Yet. Hence. this emergent process with significant implications for the competitiveness of nations is global urbanization. the transition from the simpler habits of thought to the complex appears to be irrational. İstanbul. while if we start from a simple we get to the complicated (the multiplication of variables) rather than to the complex. which is adequate when the context is simple and the implicit premises can be taken for granted. Even though the urban future lies in cities like Shangai. Yet. Whether Asian mega-urbanization as a component of the global informational society with its urban problems need to be studied within the regional context or the global networks and flows is yet to be seen. when the system is "complex" (characterized by communication between different frames of reference). economic liberalization has brought fascinating changes to China’s urban development. the stereotype perception of rigid state intervention is no longer applicable towards an understanding of China’s urban transformation. However. these two different frames of thought are not at the same level: the transition from the complex to the simple is relatively smooth. In sum. The emerging Ecumenopolis and related region based urbanization in Asia shows a mixed patchwork of spatial usage where modern. Rather. networks. The urban people are constructed as spectators of events rather than participating citizens even in the process of urbanization. On the other hand. Instead. it remains elusive. When we move within the confines of a "simple system" (shared frames of reference. urban development in contemporary China is shaped by the interplay between state and market (McGee and Robinson. the most appropriate habit of thought is that of conventional logicanalytical and linear reasoning plus some empathy. By using Shanghai as another example. information. and relations that are not measurable. entrepreneurial policies. In a nutshell. Mumbai. For instance. the familiar and convenient approach has to be turned upside down: for open communication: we have to begin with the complex in order to understand the simple. the global cities are where capital accumulation and democratic governance happen under specific circumstances. it remains outside the regulation of the state.Because 'reality' or the world now seems to be cybernetically organized continuum of images. and technological artifacts. it appears that value and meaning also have been lost in the transformation" Cities market their cultural assets. the same assumed premises). urbanization is occurring rapidly even in less developed countries and it is expected that 60 percent of the world population will be urban by 2030. From this standpoint. that is why. traditional and postmodern buildings exist side by side unlike the city-based planned urbanization in Europe. 1995). The increasing commercial competiti is affecting mass media as well as new media.
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