September 11, 2008

cities: First Process

What I found to be interesting is that according to “The Islamic city: Historic Myths, Islamic Essence, and Contemporary Relevance,? by Janet Abu-Lughod, there is more that defines a city, than previously theorized by V. Gordon Childe. It is true that a city can be defined by its physical characteristics, social and economic structure and political, government and religion. However, Janet Abu-Lughod argues that the understanding of a city requires focusing on the processes of a city rather than that product that is a city. That if we should ask ourselves the question, “out of what forces were the prototypical Islamic cities created?? We would understand the process that led to product. Yes, the factors that shaped the Islamic cities include climate/terrain, technology of production, distribution, and transportation, but, more importantly it is the Islamic religion that played a major role in shaping the social, political, and legal characteristics. Although, it also true that religion shaped pre-modern cities like Constantinople, and Tenochtitlan, the first-person accounts of great cities of the medieval lack the description of the process on which this cities were form. There are three ways the pre-modern Islamic cities was different from the medieval western cities, South America, and Asia. First in their distinction among residents into muslims and non-muslims citizen, the segregation of men and women gender that led to the division of space into semiprivate space and public space, and the element of neighborhood in Islamic cities. Due to the fulfillment of such belief or idea led to the process, which affected the city’s architectural design, but also the rules and regulation among citizens. The distinction among resident into muslims and non-muslims created a social distance within the city. There are muslims quarters, jewish quarters, and Coptic quarters. Many rules and regulation governed the non-muslim residents. . Everything and everyone was controlled including their behaviors, clothing, and their occupations. Because the Islamic law suggests the segregation of male and female genders, all aspect of the city including architectural design was regulated. The city was divided into semiprivate space, a residential area, and public space, the complex market. Houses were asymmetrical to each other. Windows were more above the ground, and made to be only transparent to the viewer from the insider and not from the outside. These are a few example of how an attempt to segregate the genders by the Islamic law affects the architectural design of the city. The institution set by the Islamic law play important role in regulating the safety and the well-being of the residents. Similarly, the pre-modern Islamic cities like the pre-modern western cities consist of hierarchical structure, that descends from the centralized system which is Islamic law down to agents of the system, Sheiks, a priest, and guards. Interestingly, Janet Abu-Lughod points that cities consists of the characteristic theorized by V. Gordon Childe. That the definition of a city must compose of a Physical form, social and economical structure, and political, government and religion. She argues that applying this definition to all kinds of cities without taking the consideration of “process which the cities were created? leads to the generalization of all cities into one category.