Commodifying multicultures : urban regeneration and the politics of space in Spitalfields
Spitalfields, within close distance to the City of London. has been subject to intense regeneration and gentrification in recent years. This thesis investigates the use of culture in promoting urban regeneration. This thesis analyses the role of multiculturally based regeneration in Spitalfields and assesses the possibilities for civic engagement in a number of recent regeneration initiatives. I argue that regeneration in Spitalfields has taken a cultural turn, and that a new set of discourses is present in regeneration practices. These new forms of regeneration practices demand a different kind of interpretation. This distinctiveness in policy consists of the use and mobilisation of 'culture' and 'multicultural capital' as tools for regeneration. Most notably the study's timing during a phase of intense change sets it apart as one of the few studies undertaken of the complex relationship between the new cultural industries, multicultural capital and the practice of selling places. The study's theoretical framework draws from a range of inter-disciplinary literature on urban space. cultural politics and feminist theory. In capturing a series of moments that took place between 2000 and 2003,1 analyse a range of regeneration initiatives but focus closely on three case studies: the construction of Banglatown in Brick Lane, the Rich Mix Centre for London, and the annual street festivals/melas that took place in 2001 and 2002. I focused on two sets of respondents - young people and young Muslim women whose experiences of regeneration raise unsettling questions of inclusion and exclusion in/through space. Cumulatively these sites are key examples of Spitalfields' multi-cultural spaces. They extend a sense of promise to all its residents in the hope of a cosmopolitan future or progressive city politics. The tensions from these cultural strategies pose challenges for thinking about the place of citizenship in urban multicultures. The research findings point to a sophisticated understanding of the relationship of ethnicity, gender, commerce and public space.