Author: Daniel Brook
Rating: 4 Stars
Review By: Shana
Very interesting book where the author takes four non-Western cities (St. Petersburg/Leningrad; Bombay/Mumbai; Shanghai; and Dubai) that were all built with an eye to the West. In the author’s fun turn of phrase, “Their occidental looks are anything but accidental.”
All four cities have odd blends of Western looks in Eastern cities, and all four have had issues where the visual and economic modernity of the cities (and their partial embrace of the West) ran afoul of other ideals (including, in almost every case, an avoidance of certain Western values like freedom of speech).
The book lays out the history (in broad strokes) of each city, how each came into being, the image it was trying to project, the tensions it caused with the broader culture of the home country, and what it meant to local identity. The overview is fascinating, with similarities and differences offering much food for thought (e.g., what difference did it make that St. Petersburg and Dubai were envisioned by their respective country's elites, where Bombay and Shanghai were devised by foreign conquerors?).
I come away very interested in reading more about St. Petersburg (and Peter the Great), learning more about Shanghai and Bombay/Mumbai, and keeping an eye on developments in Dubai.