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DRAFT 1

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Draft 1
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  How have writers changed the ways in which cities are seen? And how, in turn, has this changed cities? (DESCRIPTIVE, ANALYTICAL AND POLITICAL) There has been a plethora of writings that touch on cities, for they are sites of significant interest to people as a significant and ever-increasing numbers of people call cities home (United Nations, 2018). Many writers ranging from many different fields have each adopted many different methods towards understanding, experiencing and conveying their geographical imaginations of the city. Whilst seemingly very different, all these writings convey tales of geographical imagination of cities that shape the urban imaginaries of their readers. These representations of the city are not simply reproductions of reality but are attempts to advance geographical imaginations, allowing them to be distinguished and identified by others (Jessica Dubow?). As such, it is important to understand the representations of cities conveyed through the works of writers as they can transform cities for better or worse. A common tale by many of these writer’s touch on the aspect of the liveability of cities. Engagement with these writings allows readers to shape their own urban imaginations of the cities that they call home and ultimately develop an imagination of urban liveability that stretches from urban dystopia that they wish to avoid and an urban utopia they wish to move towards. Just as how cities shape the imaginations of people, the imaginations of people can similarly enact change on the city. Agents of change who author or read texts could range from policy makers that enact change from above, or the everyday citizen that can enact change from the ground. Even a singular writing could have different effects through space and time depending on the local contexts that a writing is re-situated in. When it comes to visions of Utopia, it cannot be divorced from the penultimate work by Thomas Moore  –  Utopia. His work is not the first to showcase that being human entails envisioning a better life (BBC, 2016) and will not be the last. In this paper, I seek to utilize the writings of urban liveability ranging from “dystopia” and “utopia” to illustrate the changes in the ways a city is seen, and how they  have enacted change in the real-world cities around the globe today. These changes in both how a city is seen and how it has changed in reality can be dispersed over space and time. I would like to state that extreme the terms “ utopia ” and “dystopia “will  be used loosely in this paper, for nothing is set in stone. One man’s “utopia” may very well be another man’s “dystopia”, and vice versa. Hartman (1999) suggests that utopia be reconceived as a process of alternative geographical imaginations that challenges the status quo. As such, these terms are to be used loosely to indicate to the geographical imaginaries that the writers and readers fear or aspires towards to respectively. Firstly, I will be using the works of an industrialized Manchester to showcase the fluidity of seeing cities and how change can be enacted. The works on the depictions of a single city can vary widely, and hence the change caused by the writings on a city can also vary widely depending on what works are being read and how they are interpreted by readers. In the first case of reading the industrialized Manchester, I will turn to the work of German writer Johan Georg Kohl who wrote about the urban spectacle of Manchester in his book titled “England, Wales and Scotland”. It was a time  of industrial might and glory for Manchester, where even Former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli reported said that “ What Manchester does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow ”  (The University of Manchester, 2015), a testament to a time in history where Manchester was the focal of the Industrial Revolution and the world had its eyes on the city. In Kohl’s book, he  noted the grimy sights of the city, but devoted a bulk of his writing to the urban spectacle of Manchester, describing the awe-inspiring industrial warehouses where they were “all large and imposing, some of them stately and elegant” (Kohl, 1844 p. 131) and of the splendor of the sights of the industrial city where he stood on one of the bridges that intersected the river “in every fo rm and direction” (Kohl, 1844 p. 132), where he remarked “what an extraordinary spectacle! There stand rows and groups of huge manufacturies, each consisting of numerous buildings which are sometimes bound together by one surrounding wall.” This section of descriptive writings clearly glamorized Manchester and served to provide the geographical imaginations of an impressive city to  the reader. Such a normative description of the city could have led to the formations of utopian imaginations of a wealthy and grand industrial city. Relying on these writings alone would probably have compelled many readers in other cities to hope and aspire that their city could be one like Manchester. However, where some mainly saw the glamour and spectacle of Manchester during the industrial revolution, many others saw mainly the horrific conditions of the city. The works of Friedrich Engels  –   “The Condition of the Working Class in England” and Elizabeth Gaskell  –   “Mary Barton” showcased a flipside to the realities of Manchester that ran contrary to the spectacle and grandeur that the city also presented. In “The Condition of the Working Class in England”, Friedrich Engels sought to offer descriptive depictions that he observed of the conditions of liveability that the working class faced in a city they called home. (In a world where people were abandoning nature for the city) Through descriptive observations of the city and putting them down into writing, Engels was being “structurally critical of existing cit ies and the planning principles that underpin them”. While this work alone may not have effected tangible change on the physical city directly, it nevertheless set the groundwork for further conceptions of the city. Having considered the dual readings of the Industrial Manchester, they posed a very stark contrasting imagination of the city to the reader. Where should the city proceed now, given the extremities of imaginations formed? For some, instead of simply accepting the descriptions of cities they have come to a new imagination of the city based on the descriptions of reality conveyed through writings such as those by Engels and Kohl. They have come to a geographical imagination of their own conception, a utopia which is what Thomas Moore termed “the good place that is nowhere”, or at least a nowhere at the time of conception. It was an imagination of how one could do cities better than what was happening at that time, a geographical imagination that challenged the reality of the time. To understand and interpret a writing, it is equally important to understand the context during which the text was written. Ebenezer Howard’s “Garden Cities of To - morrow” was written at a time when cities  were plagued by contemporary urban and social ills (March, 2004). Ebenzer Howard (1898) introduces the circumstances of the city by quoting Dean Farrar, noting that the country was “becoming a land of great cities”  (Howard, 1898, p.13) that would possibly see great cities becoming “more and more to become the graves of the physique of our race” (Howard, 1898, p.13) signaling an urgent and critical need to consider the problems of the city, that has been plagued of horrific conditions of “houses so foul, so squalid, so ill - drained, so vitiated by neglect and dirt” (Howard,  1898, p.13). Cities, especially during and after the Industrial Revolution was a hotbed for jobseekers as cities were able to provide relatively higher wages and job opportunities for people as compared to the countryside. Wanting the best of both worlds where the highest standards of liveability could be achieved by people, Howard conceived the idea of “The Three Magnets” in his writing. He envisioned that “human society and the beauty of nature are meant to be enjoyed together” (Howard, 1898, p.17) . Such importance he placed on this new imagination of the city, claiming that “ Town and country must be married, and out of this joyous union will spring a new hope, a new life, a new civilization” (Howard, 1898, p.17). With this motivation in mind, came the writings on the idea of a “Garden City”. In a faint shadow of Manchester’s circular layout, Howard based his “Garden City” on a concentric model  that built outwards, incorporating a central core that sees itself buffered from the housing of the city by nature. This concentric plan of the “Garden City”  had very different motivations as compared to the concentric plan of Manchester  –  to let human society and nature, for blue and white-collar workers to flourish alongside each other. This essentially attempted to turn the tide of the perils of unbridled industrialization in cities through the decentralization of the city, addressing both the structural and social ills that Engels had so famously highlighted in his works on Manchester. Through critiques of the contemporary city by putting forward alternative imaginations to reality, Howard’s work  put forth a revolutionary way of seeing and planning cities. It allowed people to see a way forward that united the benefits of the town and country, a union of both the urban and nature that could provide the best levels of liveability for people. This prompted the creation of new towns that sought to make Howard’s visions of a “Garden City” become a reality - …. Examples.
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