Lessons from imagining the World Trade Center site: An examination of public space and culture

Low, S. M.

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Low, S. M. (2002). Lessons from imagining the World Trade Center site: An examination of public space and culture. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 33(3), 395–405.

The World Trade Center site allows anthropologists and educators to reflect on the relationship of public space to culture, and to consider the symbolic importance of this site for imagining the public culture of the future. Public spaces in the city have the potential of being places of learning and democratic practice, but the trend toward increased surveillance and policing of these spaces, exaggerated by September 11, makes this potential difficult to realize. Anthropologists and educators interested in the nexus of education, place, and culture should consider becoming involved in this imagining process and insert themselves into the ongoing debate in order to preserve spaces for learning and democracy.

Main finding
Decreasing contact between the diverse ethnic, racial, and cultural groups in the city is one consequence of the absence of a lively public life. The author argues that anthropologists should be more aware of the significance of these changes in the public environment and protect it as an important point for learning about urban life, cultural and social diversity, tolerance, and acceptance. Design proposals from students reveal the importance of place to their sense of identity. She concludes that the design and rebuild of the World Trade Center site will help to heal the city and nation, resolve disrupted patterns of everyday life and restore residents’ sense of place attachment.

Description of method used in the article
The author spoke with 40 eighth graders, at the Grace Church School, both in groups and individually, about what they would like to see happen at the World Trade Center site. She also draws upon the artwork of third graders in Queens.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

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