Comparing Two “Banglatowns” – Reflections on the Use and Transformation of the Streets in Rome and London

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 11:45 AM
Room: 313+314
Oral Presentation
Carlotta FIORETTI , Dipartimento di Architettura, Università degli Studi Roma Tre, Rome, Italy
Paola BRIATA , Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, London, United Kingdom
The paper aims at comparing how two different “Banglatowns” were built-up in London and Rome. In both cases the “street” played a core role in urban transformation. 

In London, the Spitalfields’ case will be analysed. Here, a typical inner city has become in the last 40 years one of the biggest Bangladeshi enclaves in Europe. Since the end of the 1990s, its marketing as London’s Banglatown was a product of an alliance between Bangladeshi political and commercial elites that represent the majority in the local Council. A number of area-based initiatives played a core role in this process.

In Rome, the Torpignattara case will be considered. This is an Italian “periphery” that started to receive foreign immigrants, in particular from Bangladesh, since the 1990s. Here it was the absence of this place in the policy agenda, and some consequent intensive uses of the streets by the immigrants’ population that led to its labelling as a Banglatown.

Based on an idea of “diversity” that considers multiple axes of differentiation (e.g. national origin, class, gender), the paper will explore how these places’ transformation led to a reconfiguration of the streets’ uses that included new groups, excluding others. 

The comparison between the two cases will focus on some core issues:  

  • With reference to the debate between formal vs. informal, policy vs. practice, citizenship right vs. urbanity right, was the presence/absence of a public policy where the immigrants played a core role a minus or a plus in these places?
  • Is the street a privileged space for the cohabitation of differences? What kind of diversity is produced in the space of the street?
  • With reference to the Bangla-towns image, what kind of “authenticity” was produced? Is authenticity a meaningful issue for the social construction of spaces?