Two books on the effects of immigrants on urban culture

Arrival City (by Doug Sanders)  is a study of the effects of migration on urban culture. I haven’t yet got around to reading it although I have got myself a copy. That was because I was totally engrossed in the Looming Tower (by Lawrence Wright), which is a probe into the events that led up to the 9/11 attacks. What is striking is that 9/11 had its roots in the forties and fifties when certain muslim intellectuals who were studying and teaching in the US came back with a very antagonistic view of the country. The way US was perceived by people like Sayyid Qutub is very different from the way Americans would have seen themselves, or the way more liberal countries in Europe or even Indians would have seen them.

We have always known that the way we perceive cultures is often more a function of our own conditioning, and where we come from than anything objective about the culture. This was the most interesting sub-plot for me even as the Looming Tower painfully recreates the origin and twisted histories of figures like Osama and Al-Zawahiri.

As an immigrant myself in cities like Mumbai and Bangalore, I can already see the cities’ culture morphing and changing with every new wave of immigration. Bangalore before the eighties, Bangalore of the 90s and 2000s, and Bangalore today are strikingly different. And I guess a lot of it has to do with who makes up the fabric of the city.

Arrival City promises to throw a lot more light on this subject.

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