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Living with difference: proximity and encounter in urban life

Gill Valentine

Difference is a hallmark of cities. The size and density of urban populations means they are sites of proximity where all sorts of people are brought together. The issue of diversity and juxtaposition has been at the heart of geographical attempts to understand urban life. This article traces the way 'difference' has been understood by geographers from being synonymous with fear of otherness in the 1970s and 1980s, to being celebrated as the hallmark of cosmopolitanism in the 21st century. It then goes on to question whether proximity and urban encounters in the context of contemporary super mobility and super diversity represent a new form of urban citizenship. In doing so, the article challenges the assumptions of some cosmopolitan writing that contact with difference necessarily translates into respect for difference, and reflects on potential ways that such progressive social transformation might be achieved.

  • Price: £2.49 / FREE to subscribers
  • Page Numbers: 4-9
  • Volume: 98
  • Issue: 1
  • Date: Spring 2013

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