Globalisation, urban development, physical and virtual spaces as well as their interconnectedness, immigration, transnational effects of modern technologies … the list of themes, which sociologist and economist Saskia Sassen researches and writes on, orientates its self on her interest in political, social, and economic impacts of globalisation. In her books she questions established opinions and “truths” and searches for new insights and for the unexpected. She succeeds in both.
Saskia Sassen sees cities as the epicentre of social relations. In the 1990s, she coined the term “Global Cities” and it is here where the most important financial markets, banks, and businesses are concentrated. “Global Cities” are integral parts of a transnational city-system where economics are woven into a global economy, while still heavily influenced by local socio-economic context and national regulations. Her research on globalisation and urbanisation questioned the long-held view that the global economy was virtually independent of territorial boundaries.
Cities are also “platforms for a new type of politics – places where people, often from disadvantaged groups, can come together in a manner unthinkable in their home countries.” Cities provide space for “Global Streets” – unspecified and malleable spaces. In contrast to shopping centres or train stations, which are defined by clear and routine rituals, “Global Streets” can be understood as “open spaces” – in an analogue or digital sense. They are places where “the powerless can make history”, such as we saw at Tahrir Square or through the Occupy Movement.
Saskia Sassen teaches sociology at Columbia University and at the London School of Economics. In 2013 she was awarded the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for her contributions to the field of social science. This year, we are very pleased to welcome Saskia Sassen to re:publica. We look forward to her very first keynote at re:publica.
Photo: Saskia Sassen