The Village and the City
by Dave Grace -- July 6th, 2016
It is not always clear as to what the term village refers. In some cases, it seems synonymous with what I think of as a small town (in a highly developed context)… not necessarily the definition I otherwise imagine: that is, a settlement of subsistence agricultural people. These varied meanings are since the term village is hard to define without an implicit reference to a normative reference level of development and a corresponding normative definition of city.
Thus, I am interested in asking the following two, interrelated questions:
1. What is the village?
2. What is the city?
It is important to ask these questions together because much harm can be done by obsession with the urban and obsession with the rural (e.g. the exclusivist conceptions of space by the urban planner Le Corbusier and the academic/farmer, Wendell Berry respectively). Each lacked an imagination for both the village and the city. Additionally, each neglected to account for the oppressive consequences of their singular vision. For instance, to my knowledge, Le Corbusier did not account for the consequences of the rational, planned city (case study of housing projects in the US) and Berry has not accounted for the parochialism of agrarianism as well as its ties to private property at the expense of common property regimes.
I raise this criticism because it is urgent that our social systems navigate contemporary development with care to the ‘triple bottom line’ of ecology, economy, and culture.
These thoughts are in the background of my current stay in India. However, these thoughts continue to motivate me in my study to continue to look at the places I live more closely and with a fresh perspective.
I again provide an introduction to Mangar, Haryana.
Mangar has the look of a peaceful village, being nestled within a valley in the Aravalli mountains outside of the NCR.
Here, one will find subsistence agricultural livelihoods mixed with those working in one of the “professions” or commuting to employment in the city.
Goats, while less prominent than in the past, are still significant in the village and primary source of livelihood for some. This kid befriended me.
On its streets, one will find domestic animals sharing the road with automobiles, tractors, and the like. Camels are perhaps the tallest road occupants besides large trucks.
I have also met many friendly people who have graciously welcomed me into their homes and shared their time, food, and friendship with me.
Indian culture[s] has many expressions which I have found myself attempting to try on… in a literal sense.
After returning from last summer in India, I was intrigued by the construction on Duke Chapel where they had placed a fence around individual trees. The fence bore a sign reading “Tree Protection Area: Do Not Enter.”
Certainly, the tree has economic value and is thus protected from destruction during construction. However, it is in the metaphorical sense, in which this sign intrigues me.
The question is (1) what do we put fences around so as to protect and (2) are we paying attention to the consequences of our actions outside of those fences?
Are we rethinking our assumptions or reinscribing them?