Essentialising cities and Researching refugees

25 11 2009

In the last post I wrote about a travel writer complaining about aspects of london and delaring that they had ‘fallen out of love’ with London. A few days later on a train journey, I happened across a copy of The Times and read a similar debate about New York – The article disputes the results of a Time Out poll where readers had rated New York as the greatest city in the world.  Reading on, I learned the startling fact that Madrid has more restaurants and bars than the whole of the Netherlands! 

This set me thinking about how we essentialise large cities. Is it acceptable to declare huge cities such as London or New York as ‘cool’ or as having ‘lost their edge’? Some of these mega cities are larger than many countries, would it be considered acceptable to declare that a whole nation had lost its edge or was no longer cool? I don’t recall many instances of it in the press and I suspect that it wouldn’t be considered politically correct – let alone correct in any verifiable sense. Cities such as London and New York, Buenos Aires and Mumbai are so large and diverse, containing so much to delight and to depress, such varieties of wealth, history, poverty, population etc etc… that to describe the whole thing as ‘cool’, ‘squalid’, ‘tasteless’, ‘colourful’  or any of the other adjectives favoured by essentialising and sensationalising travel hacks is a very poor way of lumping together such diversity.

The Information Centre about Asylum and Refugees (ICAR) is holding a FREE seminar, the first in a series which will explore ways of researching refugees and asylum seekers.

‘Gathering Evidence Effectively’ School of Social Sciences, City University, London 8th December 2009, 4-5.30pm

Finding evidence about asylum seekers, refugees or migrants to put into funding proposals, policy papers or research proposals is often afraught process with a lack of time being a major issue. There are anumber of resources which can provide the key evidence needed quicklyassuming that you know where to look. Led by experienced researchers Julie Gibbs and Gabriela Quevedo from the ICAR team, this seminar will show you where to find key information and how to access it. The session will involve a demonstration of a number of key web resources and how to get the best from them these will include ICAR, Home Office, Office for National Statistics and others.

This event is free of charge but places are limited so please book early to avoid disappointment. Please contact ICAR for further information and to book a place:

Information Centre about Asylum and Refugees, Social Sciences Building, City University, Whiskin Street, London, EC1V 0AX. Telephone: 0207 040 4596 E-mail: Web:




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