In the Cities of the South: Scenes from a Developing World

Jeremy Seabrook, Author
Jeremy Seabrook, Author Verso $20 (0p) ISBN 978-1-85984-081-8
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
Hardcover - 303 pages - 978-1-85984-986-6
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Both city and village have been sentimentalized: cities as centers of economic opportunity, villages as places of community, kinship and pooled resources. Here Seabrook, a prolific sociologist (The Idea of Neighborhood and Victims of Development) relates stories of rural emigrants' difficult adjustments to the reality of life in the cities of Southeast Asia on the one hand and how rural residents have been so changed by urbanization that many are psychologically ""uprooted"" without ever having moved. For Bangkok emigrants, for instance, the transition from rice to currency as the basis of wealth is a confusing one, as nature replenishes rice and any excess is traditionally shared among the rural poor-a harsh contrast to urban acquisitiveness and accumulation. In a touching analogy, Seabrook compares the plight of the industrialized Third World poor and his own upbringing in the industrialized Midlands of Britain while acknowledging how remote the two experiences are. In citing the experience of rickshaw drivers in Dhaka, Seabrook points out that hope is ""perhaps the greatest resource of the poor,'' adding that it is an-maybe their only-""infinitely exploitable commodity."" (May)
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