Traditionalism versus Modernism in the City

18 February 2020 (Tue)

This guest lecture was delivered by Michael Herzfeld, the Ernest E. Monrad Research Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University. Focusing on Bangkok, but but introducing comparative perspectives from Athens and Rome, Professor Herzfeld addressed the problems faced by local groups struggling to remain as residents of central areas now coveted by governments and developers alike. He argued that the appeal to tradition that such groups make, even when couched in terms of fervent loyalty to the nation and its ideals, often challenges emergent models of national identity and thus provoke violent and repressive responses. The outlook for any version of tradition not explicitly crafted by national cultural agencies seems grim indeed, and the triumph of globalization in such situations becomes a dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy that may destroy the social resilience of mega-cities worldwide.