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AR Reading List 012: City Portraits

The latest instalment of our new series of AR Reading Lists: seven carefully chosen pieces from our archive, free for registered users

A city is difficult to reduce, it evades any full description. There is an editing process that is requisite when thinking about a city because it is made up of networks, of infrastructure, people, family, of buildings and streets and economic transactions and parks and alleyways. Some things are connected and some things are fragmented. It escapes total synthesis. Edward Lewis says ‘we wear our houses and our cities like clothes’.

The dull result of globalisation is that many cities have become flattened, diluted with the same international brands, coffee shops, food outlets. At the same time social media connects each atomised city into one web of expression, leading to eruption of revolutionary movements around the world. Chants spread from city to city, the same words reverberating in new streets. This week’s reading list pulls together several ‘city portraits’. These are essays that use the city as the site for rethinking very different subjects: from food to housing and from racial segregation to sacrality.


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  • Najaf, AR July 1945, Edward Lewis ‘Since we wear our houses and our cities like clothes, is it really so inconceivable that in some fantastic and special circumstances of psychology, setting, and design, the individual personalities within them, once rich and warm, might fade into a collective mask, or even completely vanish, like the bones and flesh of an invisible Superman’

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