From Chicago to Shenzhen: The City One Hundred Years On
In March this year, exactly 100 years have passed since Robert Park penned his seminal paper The City in the American Journal of Sociology. Subtitled ‘Suggestions for the investigation of human behavior in the city environment’, this paper provided the founding statement for the Chicago school of urban sociology that came to epitomize urban research in the United States and abroad for decades to come. Park stressed the need to research the city as a social structure, and presented the city as “a laboratory or clinic in which human nature and social processes may be most conveniently and profitably studied”. A hundred years onward, much has changed in urban research and in the urban world itself. We now life in a world of global cities, where the Chinese city occupies the centre stage that the American city once had. While many themes picked up by Park still seem very relevant today, at the same time the Chinese city has a radically different urban structure. How does this impact the social life of Chinese citizens? Using Shenzhen as the contemporary urban ‘laboratory’, the Urban Research Group's new project suggests revisiting Park`s agenda, to review its relevance for the contemporary Chinese city, and – reflecting on the new characteristics of the Chinese city – to develop this into a new multi-disciplinary agenda for urban research.
(Photo © Jeremy Atherton, 2006)