Joel Kotkin – Welcome To The Billion-Man Slum August 2014. As megacities (urban areas with more than 10 million people) mushroom across the globe, we need to start thinking about how to make cities better, not simply bigger.

When our urban pundit class speaks of the future of cities, we are offered glittering images of London, New York, Singapore, or Shanghai. In reality, the future for most of the world’s megacities—places with more than 10 million people—may look more like Dhaka, Mumbai, or Kinshasa: dirty, poverty- and disease-ridden, and environmentally disastrous.

Harvard’s Ed Glaeser suggests that megacities grow because “globalization” and “technological change have increased the returns to being smart.” And to be sure, megacities such as Jakarta, Kolkata (in India), Mumbai, Manila, Karachi, and Lagos—all among the top 25 most populous cities in the world—present a great opportunity for large corporate development firms and thrilling treasure troves for both journalists and academic researchers. But surely there’s a better alternative to celebrating misery, as one prominent author did recently in a Foreign Policy article bizarrely entitled “In Praise of Slums.”

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Interests And Difficulties In Understanding Chinese Culture: What To Prepare For When Communicating With Cultural Others



Because of the long history and richness of civilization in China (Leung, 2008; Liu, 2009; Hu, Grove, and Zhuang, 2010), as well as the complexity and diversity of Chinese culture in mainland China and in the Chinese community worldwide (The Chinese Culture Connection, 1987; Fan, 2000), the task of designing an introductory course on Chinese culture for Westerners presents certain difficulties (Luk, 1991; Fan, 2000). While the content of a comprehensive course on Chinese culture remains to be decided, the present study explores a 12-week introductory course on four areas of Chinese culture. It was delivered to 16 Irish students who were doing a degree in Intercultural Studies. Each participant was asked to write a 500-word reflective journal entry every two weeks and an essay of 2,000–2,500 words at the end of the course.
The study aims to find out which area(s) and topic(s) might be of interest to or potential obstacles for Irish students in future participation in intercultural dialogue with Chinese people. Using the software Wordsmith Tools (Scott, 1996), the study identifies both the area and the sub-topic within each area that are of greatest interest yet previously unknown to Irish students.

The results show that the section on “love, sex, and marriage in China” was very well received and the most discussed topic in their journals and essays. The participants demonstrated fascination with the changing role of women in Chinese culture and identified shared ground in terms of marriage choices in both Irish and Chinese societies, which could help them to develop a deeper understanding of Chinese society and participate in intercultural dialogue from this perspective. A number of topics, such as martial arts films, the urban/rural divide, loss of face, etc., can be employed as prisms through which students can explore and understand elements of Chinese culture and its evolution over time.
The understanding of “face” in Chinese culture is perceived by the participants as being of great importance in intercultural and interpersonal communication, which could undoubtedly support engagement in open and respectful exchange or interaction between the Irish and Chinese. Interestingly, the participants indicated that it is difficult to understand that the use of linguistic politeness could lead to the speaker being perceived as “powerless” in Chinese society, which could mean that not being aware of this might lead to miscommunication between individuals with different cultural backgrounds. In general, the findings presented in this chapter may have significant pedagogical implications for teachers and students of intercultural communication, but may also be of interest to those with a practical involvement in intercultural dialogue. Read more

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Notre Dame Helps Build Affordable Housing In Haiti

Following the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake, the attention and concern of the world was focused on Haiti. As is often the case, as time went on, the focus on Haiti became less intense as the world moved on to the most recent natural disaster.
However, the plight of Haitians has remained a driving concern for a group of University of Notre Dame engineering professors and students who are working to bring about a novel housing solution in that country.

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Jeanice Hortence N’guellet – Urbanisme : Plus De 50% De Constructions Privées Au Congo Sont Sans Autorisation


Photo: 2014, Août. Les règles de l’urbanisme sont applicables tant par les acteurs du secteur public que par ceux du privé. Elles font obligation à quiconque désire entreprendre une construction en matériaux durables d’obtenir une autorisation administrative auprès des services compétents. Malheureusement, cette exigence ne se constate que sur le papier, car sur le terrain, nombreux sont les citoyens qui la foulent aux pieds.

À Brazzaville, comme dans d’autres agglomérations du Congo, plusieurs quartiers naissent vite et se dégradent aussi vite à cause de l’occupation anarchique des espaces. Les propriétaires fonciers et terriens, principaux acteurs dans ces ventes délibérées des terrains, opèrent sans grand respect des normes en la matière.

À quand le rétablissement de l’ordre ?

Le phénomène de l’occupation anarchique des terres est loin d’être éradiqué au Congo, malgré les lois et règlements pris par les pouvoirs publics. Le phénomène prend de l’ampleur alors qu’au Congo, la terre, patrimoine inaliénable et signe de reconnaissance d’une nation, semble de plus en plus mal gérée. La léthargie et le laxisme constatés dans la mise en application d’une véritable politique cadastrale laisse présager l’absence d’un département en charge de ces questions.

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Villes-Noires – In A World Of Conversions, What Is The Urban To Be Governed?

villesnoiresAt the Venice Biennale of 2013, the Danish Pavilion presented a video installation of Jesper Just that portrayed three black men navigating a large exurban development, Tianducheng, some 200 miles from Shanghai.  Tianducheng is built as an immense replica of Paris, or more precisely, an early modernist rendition of Paris.  The city was initiated in the mid-2000’s but remains largely under construction, and despite the aspirations for elegance, the rapidity and cheapness of the construction process renders much of the built landscape as already ruined.  Additionally, the inhabitants of the city have largely altered the supposedly Parisian characteristics of the place, removing balconies, balustrades, and reworking the surfaces of buildings in order to make them more functional and long lasting.  The black male characters assume different positions in relationship to this environment.  One man is filmed walking through the expanse of the city as if carrying out some obligatory rite of passage that needs to be expeditiously experienced and then disposed of.  Another presses his face closely to the surface of the buildings, inserting his body into their curvatures as if awaiting the words of some oracle, some secret to be revealed.

The exhibition demonstrates the simultaneously obdurate and exhausted imaginary of city form, the unyielding yet never kept promise of urban life.  In contrast to the barriers and high costs entailed for Africans to access urban Europe—the supposed embodiment of “well-being”—the Chinese have mass-produced the surface representations of that well being as cheap knock-offs.  But instead of simply bemoaning the kitsch of such simulations or the ways in which simulations take on a reality more real than their referents, the “provision” of Paris in Tianducheng offers a way of activating different networks of urban comparison and thus potential.

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Paul Goble – A $50 Billion Ghost Town – Sochi Six Months After Putin Games – Photographer Aleksandr Belensky

“The outcome was a Chinese pseudo-Europe, naturally. Only today nobody already needs it anymore,” Alexander Belenkiy writes.

“The outcome was a Chinese pseudo-Europe, naturally. Only today nobody already needs it anymore,” Alexander Belenkiy writes. August 2014. Photographer Aleksandr Belensky has documented what many observers feared: despite spending more than 50 billion US dollars on the Sochi Olympics, Vladimir Putin has left Sochi not the vital place he promised but a ghost town where there are almost no tourists and where much of the infrastructure is already decaying.

On his Livejournal page, Belensky has posted more than 30 pictures to back up his description of Sochi six months after the games concluded, a place which he suggests was “simply condemned to become a ghost” now that Putin, Russia and the world have moved on to other things.
Belensky’s pictures tell his story, but he provides brief commentaries for each of them, and they too are instructive. He notes that it isn’t the case that there is no one about. One can sometimes see three or even as many as five people if one looks closely. “But the place is lifeless and isn’t working at even five percent of capacity.”

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