Book Review Preview: Multicultural Cities

By Carlos Teixeira

Mohammad Abdul Qadeer, Multicultural Cities: Toronto, New York, and Los Angeles. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016).

Both the United States and Canada are important immigrant-receiving countries. Their long histories of accommodating multiracial and multiethnic populations have led to their inclusion in lists of “countries of immigrants.” Like many other cities in North America and in the Western world, Toronto, New York, and Los Angeles, the largest metropolises of Canada and the United States, have become major “ports of entry” to immigrants, including refugees, and “crucibles of multiculturalism.” These three cities have been described as multicultural cites “where the multiplicity of cultures thrives and diversity of ethnicities as well as lifestyles reigns, supported by civil rights” (p. 3).

This growing, ethnically and racially diverse immigrant population has played a key role in shaping the social, cultural, economic, and political landscapes of these cities in the modern era. Despite this, comparative scholarly work on multicultural cities in North America is scant. In this long overdue book, these three key cities in North America, and, for that matter in the world, provide excellent laboratories for the study of multiculturalism and for how ethnic and racial diversity affects urban structures and processes.

In a time of hopes and promises as well as challenges and tensions that have increasingly come to define multicultural cities, Qadeer’s timely study makes a very strong contribution to scholarship on these cities in the North American context. As noted by the author, this book is an inquiry into the structures, institutions, and processes of three recognized multicultural cities, namely Toronto – a Canadian city that embodies multiculturalism as policy — as well as New York, and Los Angeles, American cities with long traditions of immigration and pluralism. This book aims to describe and explain those features that represent the influence of multiculturalism. A key question guiding this study is how a city’s ethno-racial diversity is “embedded in its geographic structure, social organization, economic activities, and political and symbolic institutions, all as a matter of rights” (p. xv).  In answering this question, Qadeer provides an invaluable perspective on how these three ethnically and racially diverse cities “function and cohere, accommodating differences and integrating diverse cultures” (p. 6).

Qadeer offers an impressive level of historical and empirical detail about these cities’ histories, demographic structures, urban economic and social geographies, ethnic entrepreneurship, community life, political incorporation, urban planning, and changing urban landscapes. He brings to bear an in-depth knowledge about multicultural cities, their urban institutions and structures and insights into ways these institutions and structures are evolving and cultural differences negotiated. Drawing insights from a rich, multi-method approach to data collection, Qadeer has benefited from a diversity of scholarly and analytical studies, U.S. and Canadian census data as well as other demographic and economic government sources, newspaper articles, ethnographic accounts, participant observation and interviews with key informants. He achieves his main objectives and clearly answers the main research questions guiding this book.

The full review will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs.

Carlos Teixeira
University of British Columbia

Book Review Preview: The New York Nobody Knows

By Tony Filipovitch

William B. Helmreich, The New York Nobody Knows:  Walking 6,000 Miles in the City (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 2013).

In The New York Nobody Knows Helmreich proposes to evaluate the city sociologically as a whole, and make it come alive. To write this book, he walked all 6,000 miles of streets in New York City over a period of four years. Along the way, he recorded what he observed and the conversations he had with people on the streets.

Besides the introduction and conclusion, the book is divided into six sections: newcomers, communities,  leisure, spaces,  and  ethnicity. Each chapter is supported by the author’s direct observations and by references to scholarly writing and newspaper accounts—the footnotes are frequently an important part of Helmreich’s argument.

Unfortunately, the title choice suggests a personal appreciation of a place. This work also positions itself with other great urban ethnographies. But lacking the tighter focus of these earlier works, Nobody Knows fails to combine the individual mosaic tiles into a coherent picture.

And yet, Helmreich has provided a valuable initial reconnaissance of a difficult terrain. He avoids the pitfall of so many city portraits that present the story as a monolithic, inescapable march to the present; he insists on the messy, often incoherent diversity that distinguishes the city from the village. There are two particularly interesting conclusions that deserve further scrutiny. While the trend is to assimilation, large numbers of city residents prefer to live among religious or ethnic groups with whom they identify. A corollary to this is that gentrifiers may live among the poor, but they do so as neighbors not friends. Second, there is an emerging trend, especially among the young, of hybrid identities that combine cultural elements in new ways.

Helmreich has left us a debt yet to be paid, one that could keep a generation of researchers happily engaged for years to come.

The full book review will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs.

Tony Filipovitch, Minnesota State University Mankato,

Book Review Preview: Homes Fit for Heroes

By John Walls

Lou Rosenburg, Scotland’s Homes Fit for Heroes: Garden City Influences on the Development of Scottish Working Class Housing, 1900-1939 (Edinburgh: The Word Bank and the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies, 2016)

In the aftermath of World War 1 the British Government established a bold programme for 500,000 houses for the returning veterans. The proposal was driven by poor UK housing conditions, a housing shortage and the uncertainty of the electoral outcome in 1918 (NB 8 million new voters). Unlike earlier legislation emerging in the 19th and early 20th century, the Housing & Town Planning Act 1919 was mandatory on local authorities rather than voluntary – a radical departure.

In Scotland the impact of this programme was profound because the style and layout of housing adopted was influenced by the English Garden City Movement. Working class housing was typically tenemental in form more akin to housing found in Europe. The new housing transformed the compact form of Scotland’s cities, towns and villages. These became surrounded by non-traditional two story suburban development.

Lou Rosenburg’s book Scotland’s Homes Fit for Heroes delightfully captures the history of this dramatic change. He peppers his narrative with insightful, and sometimes, entertaining quotes. For instance, Rosenburg observes that Sir Patrick Geddes, father of British Town Planning, welcomed the garden city style even if meant importing an English form. Geddes is quoted as saying somewhat wryly ‘How can we hope to bring in better housing [to Scotland]?……We must fall back on importing missionaries! Happily these sometime desirable aliens have been lately forthcoming.’ (P111). One trusts that the ‘alien’ reference was seen as ‘locker room banter’ by Scotland’s neighbours!

This book is an easy read and should appeal to a wide audience. The reader will gain a real insight into the transformative influence of Scotland’s Homes Fit for Heroes.

The full version of this book review will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs.

John Walls
Urban Planner (Retired)

2017 Brings Changes for JUA

By Igor Vojnovic

Happy New Year!

As we begin 2017, you will notice that the Journal of Urban Affairs has gone through a major transformation. After 18 years with Wiley, the JUA has moved to Taylor & Francis/Routledge ( The switch culminates a year-and-a-half of work and marks a new era for the JUA. The editorial team is very excited about this move and we have UAA executive director Margaret Wilder and Taylor & Francis/Routledge publisher Jonathan Manley to thank for making it happen. We would also like to acknowledge the folks at Wiley, particularly publisher Caroline McCarley and senior production editor Izzat Ibrahim, for ensuring that production of the JUA flowed so smoothly over these many years.


The JUA’s switch to Taylor & Francis/Routledge brings a number of changes. The journal has been redesigned and will publish eight issues per year instead of five, a 60% increase. The adoption of new RoMEO classification requirements by funding agencies—the result of increasing pressure for more open access that has been diffusing globally—has been reshaping how authors and editors view archiving policies, and the JUA has therefore adopted a more open archiving policy with Taylor & Francis/Routledge. In addition, as with the journal itself, everything has been redesigned behind the scenes, from systems to production.

Over the last year-and-a-half, the JUA editorial team has been committed to increasing the journal’s global presence, and we are now seeing some success thanks to that effort. We have had more than a 60% increase in non-U.S. submissions over the last year. A number of special issues exploring global themes are also in the pipeline and will be coming out in print over the next couple of years. Some of the forthcoming special issues, and their guest editors, include:

Citizens in City Regions, Anders Lidström (Umeå University) and Linze Schaap (Tilburg University)

New Urban Governance, Nuno Ferreira da Cruz, Philipp Rode, and Michael McQuarrie (London School of Economics)

Urban Transformation in Asia and the Pacific Rim: Economic Transitions, Institutions and Development Policies, Cathy Yan Liu (Georgia State University), Bligh Grant (University of Technology Sydney) and Lin Ye (Sun Yat-sen University)

Urban Spectacles and Transformation in Brazil in the wake of Mega-events, Xuefei Ren (Michigan State University)

Rural Migrants in Transitional Chinese Cities: Marginality, Agency, and Social Justice, Shenjing He (The University of Hong Kong), Jun Wang (City University of Hong Kong) and Junxi Qian (University of Edinburgh)

Refugees in the City, Gordana Rabrenovic (Northeastern University) and Nihad Bunar (Stockholm University)

The City in Central and South America, Cecilia Giusti (Texas A&M University) and Lucia Capanema-Alvares (Universidade Federal Fluminense)

Promoting Social Justice and Equity in Shrinking Cities, Robert Mark Silverman (The State University of New York at Buffalo)

Finally, I want to thank all the authors, reviewers, and readers for their support of the JUA. Your time and effort is greatly appreciated by the whole editorial team. It has been your commitment, creativity, and energy that has made the JUA such an exceptional journal. Thank you most sincerely!

This is clearly a very exciting time for the journal! As part of the urban community, I hope that you are all as excited with this transition as we are!

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and productive 2017!


Igor Vojnovic is Professor of Geography at Michigan State University and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Urban Affairs.