As the number of people living in cities continues to increase both absolutely and as a proportion of the overall population, the issues surrounding city living become more relevant and urgent. From a practical point of view, this means planning the infrastructure that is required for city management, arranging for public health and hygiene services, providing transportation for workers and shoppers and so forth.
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Urban studies seems to have been undergoing a rapid growth spurt over the past few years, almost as if it has reached the adolescent phase. And, also reminiscent of adolescence, it has been diversifying its attention in all kinds of unexpected and unpredictable directions while rapidly developing a jargon of its own that is all but indecipherable to outsiders.
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It has been a while but it is now available:
Walsh, John and Nittana Southiseng, “Vientiane – A Failure to Exert Power?” City: Analysis of Urban Trends, Culture, Theory, Policy, Action, Vol.13, No.1 (March, 2009), pp.95-102.
This is the abstract:
Vientiane is a city that has always stood in opposition or contrast to its surroundings. When first established, it contrasted an urban centre with surrounding rural areas from which surplus was extracted to support the activities of the urban elite. Through its existence, it has provided a centre of power to counter or be opposed to Ayutthaya, Luang Prabang and Chiang Mai. This could be aligned along ethnic lines or, internally among the Lao people, between the religious and political division between Vientiane and Luang Prabang. In the Communist world, the city contrasted its religious and ceremonial role with the temporal state and its monuments to legitimacy, which remain half-built and lifeless in the cityscape. The city also acted as a symbol of the competing Communist ideologies prevalent in the region. In the emerging post-Communist world, Vientiane represents once again a central organizing function and a surrounding environment which is supposed to be the subject of direction but which more commonly wishes to establish space in which to pursue income gathering opportunities and entrepreneurial activities. It also exists as one of the 10 capital cities of ASEAN and has acted as a location in which cross-border state level agreements are made which the Lao state has little technical capacity to enact without considerable external support. In each manifestation of opposition, remnants of the opposition have lingered, notwithstanding regular episodes in which the city has been almost completely destroyed. Many of those remnants are also symbolic of the external power which has been called upon to substantiate and legitimize the claim to power that the city controller has made and tried to enforce. Hence, the city’s markets, monuments, temples (wats), fields and roads are evidence of the divisions in the past.