think globally, exchange ideas locally
June 24, 2007 11:39 AM   Subscribe

What cities around the world are considered global crossroads where ideas are exchanged?

I'm thinking Katmandu, Istanbul, San Francisco, New York...where else? Places where cultures come together, and innovation occurs. Could be past or present, but leaning towards the present.

(This is to be used as concepts for a project I'm working on that has several components, one of each to be named after these cities...looking for about 10 total)
posted by hazel to Society & Culture (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'd say Boston, especially due to its universities.

Also Oxford, Paris, Tokyo.
posted by tastybrains at 11:42 AM on June 24, 2007

Paris (art and literature). Amsterdam (trade).
posted by handee at 11:50 AM on June 24, 2007

I'd say Los Angeles (I'm sure someone who's never actually lived or worked here will come along to snarily dispute this). Because of its geographical position (borders Mexico, plus is the main gateway to the Pacific), there's a definite cultural interesection between U.S.-Latin America and U.S.-Asia that drives a lot of the contemporary art, cuisine, fashion, etc.

Historically, Vienna would be a great city to look at -- it was absolutely the European site of East-meets-West, with spectacular results in the arts, etc.
posted by scody at 11:57 AM on June 24, 2007

Geneva, London, Montreal, Singapore, Rome, Istanbul, Boston, New York, Vienna, Reykjavik.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 12:05 PM on June 24, 2007

And you're right, Kathmandu as well. And Llasa (capital of Tibet).
posted by Count Ziggurat at 12:08 PM on June 24, 2007

Moscow or St. Petersburg, Prague, definitely Vienna.

Don't forget Mecca and Jerusalem.


New Orleans.

Milan, Venice.
posted by nasreddin at 12:13 PM on June 24, 2007

If you're specifically studying ten "global crossroads" then I would drop New York and London (sure they're global crossroads, but they're special cases with a lot of extraneous variables) to look at Geneva, Montreal, Singapore, Rome, Instanbul, Boston, Vienna, Reykjavik, Kathmandu and Llasa.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 12:13 PM on June 24, 2007

Varanasi/Benares; also a great seat of learning and a holy city. Prague under Charles the IV too, I'd say.
Karakorum under the Mongol khans: "The flow of ambassadors from France, sons of Georgian and Armenian sovereigns, Russian princes, and Chinese officials was unceasing"
posted by Abiezer at 12:16 PM on June 24, 2007

Venice historically was a huge one. It served as the gateway between Western Europe and the East, both because of its markets and because it was mercenary enough to defy the Pope and continue trading with the Middle and Far East even when such things were pretty much forbidden for Christians (I think the entire city was excommunicated three times). And at its peak the Venetian empire controlled pretty much the entire eastern Mediterranean, so until sailors got around the Cape of Good Hope in the late 1400s, pretty much everything traveling between Asia and Europe went through Venice.

"What's new on the Rialto" was actually a big deal; the markets where were all the international gossip got exchanged.
posted by occhiblu at 1:00 PM on June 24, 2007

Brussels is not exactly what you asked but not very far : latin (french-speaking) and german (dutch-speaking) meet here with civil servants from all the EU countries, NATO headquarters and migrants from north africa or turkey or from Poland, Romania, etc.

In short, it's a place where you don't act surprised when you hear someone speaking a language that's not yours because it happens pretty often.

But I must add that these communities don't mix very much : there will be no polish migrant at a EU civil servant birthday party and the french-speaking and dutch-speaking halves of belgium are currently considering getting czech-like divorce.
posted by Baud at 1:02 PM on June 24, 2007

posted by Rock Steady at 1:11 PM on June 24, 2007

I'd also throw in Timbuktu as well and N'thing Alexandria.
posted by fizzix at 1:33 PM on June 24, 2007

You should check out the wiki entry on global cities - its has some of what you're looking for.
posted by wfrgms at 2:02 PM on June 24, 2007

Most of the places I was going to say are already covered. So there ya go.

As far as Egypt, if you are talking about a place where people exchanged international ideas in past history I'd say the port of Alexandria definitely. Just going to the Graeco-Roman museum in Alexandria shows how many amazing influences were there historically. But if you are talking about the present I find myself wanting to call Cairo a far bigger epicenter. Cairo is basically the Hollywood of the Middle East, it's where most Arabic movies and media are created, and because of that even though Arabic dialects are vastly different most Arabic-speaking people worldwide can understand the Egyptian dialect if it's spoken to them. My understanding is that Alexandria is a smaller town and has become more conservative of late while Cairo has grown to be a more influential and international city.

I could be wrong, but that's my understanding.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:34 PM on June 24, 2007

Melaka (Malacca) was an important trading hub in the 1500s; it was right between East and West and attracted trades of all kinds, and it was also quite instrumental in the spread of Islam in South East Asia.
posted by divabat at 6:51 PM on June 24, 2007

Seconding checking up on Sassen's work, we largely look at her work in our studies on globalisation.

This is another excellent resource on globalisation.

Finally, the 'think global, act local' concept that you've alluded to in the headline is often refered to as 'glocalisation or glocalization'. Searching with those words would be a good start.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 8:48 PM on June 24, 2007

Miami is truly the gateway between the US (and, to some degree, Europe) and Latin America.... It's been described as the capital of the entire region.
posted by JMOZ at 10:18 PM on June 24, 2007

Present day thinking: Miami is the financial capital of Latin America. Dubai is the modern crossroads between Europe and Asia. Brussels is the administrative centre of Europe.
Singapore and Hong Kong are still Asian crossroads and hubs.
LA and Vancouver are Pacific asian / american crossroads.
posted by adamvasco at 11:20 PM on June 24, 2007

Oh, and of course, Xi'an, where Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism came together for the first time and cross-fertilised, especially under the likes of Xuanzang.
posted by meehawl at 9:02 AM on June 25, 2007

ahhh...i love this my wanderlust is kicking in again.

I think I'm going to eliminate SF (because that's where we're based), NY (too many variables and overdone) & Timbuktu (because the bags have taken that one). And, with so many choices...I think I'll go with the modern day ones and put the historical ones on the shelf.

(not in any order):
1) Katmandu
2) Istanbul
3) Vienna
4) Hong Kong
5) Tokyo
6) Paris
7) Cairo
8) Dubai
9) Moscow
10) LA or Vancouver, or Geneva or Brussels...hmmm

I noticed the lack of South American cities...Sao Paulo perhaps? Funny the mention of Boston a few times (education/universities)...that might become an 11th.
posted by hazel at 2:12 PM on June 25, 2007

I'd say HongKong, where east meets west to its fullest.
posted by dy at 3:30 PM on June 25, 2007

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