Rethinking the City as Urban Community: Views from South Europe

  • Giuliana B. Prato


Prato looks at how the problematic of incommensurability has affected the debate in urban anthropology. She advocates a rethinking of the city in terms of ‘urban community’ in the Weberian sense; that is, as an ideal-type that embraces the meanings of urbs, polis and civitas. This is a community that promotes political and civic participation and provides an environment functional to good government. She argues that, taken together, these three analytical categories would bring out the complexity of contemporary cities. Although such an ideal-type may be possible only in free democratic society, she adds, its comparative potential may well provide the basis for a theoretically relevant ethnographic analysis that makes commensurable the apparently incommensurable. She addresses the significance of political programmes and grassroots action to urban socio-economic life, looking at two urban realities that were affected by the changes occurring in Europe between the late 1980s and early 1990s; they are, respectively, Brindisi in Italy and the Durrës–Tirana metropolitan region in Albania. These ethnographies bring out the democratic role that local administrations can play in facilitating the participation of citizens in decision-making. They also highlight how ethnographic research can contribute significantly to our understanding of how abstract models are negotiated at the local level.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giuliana B. Prato
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Anthropology and ConservationUniversity of KentCanterburyUK

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