July 03, 2006

Liverpool: A Cosmopolitan City? A Talk at Global Cities, Liverpool Hope University

Janet Speake
Discovering Cities: Liverpool

In her talk, Janet Speake asks if Liverpool is a cosmopolitan city. She describes 'cosmopolitan' as :

*extensive mobility in which people have the right to travel corporeally, imaginatively, virtually;

*the ability to consume places and environments on route;

*curiosity;

*a willingness to take risks by encountering the other.
Speake suggests that it creates a third space. She refers us to the work of Urry at Lancaster University. Cosmopolitanism is an openness towards people and places and experiences from different cultures, especially those of different nations.

Liverpool has the oldest Chinatown in Europe although Speake describes it as being somewhat staged in its authenticity. The Chinatown arch refers to the twin–towns of Liverpool: Shanghai and New York. In Liverpool, there is a interdependence between places. It is not the same as the global city which has its source externally.

Cosmopolitan logic is expressed by 'both/and' rather than 'either/or' and this applies in the sense of the local and the international. It is a diffusion of different cultures, a transnational way of living. It is myriad symbols, brands, icons. It is technology, talent, tolerance. It absorbs the pattern book buildings but finds difference in each.

Is Liverpool becoming cosmopolitan? This is Speake's question. In the time of empire it was a seaport and the second city of mercantilism and manufacture. If cosmopolitanism refers to internal responses to global knowledge, then how does Liverpool react in the late twentieth century global reordering? There was a decline in the ship–building industries and a waning population. From former greatness, Liverpool slumped in decline.

Liverpool's repositioning and new connectivity in the wake of its status as European Capital of Culture 2008 has led to its culture being commodified. Yet Liverpool still accommodates marginal cultures and though it takes on board serial application, it also maintains difference.


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