Conference in Budapest, Hungary, April 2009 

What is alternative culture in the urban space?


“There is such a constant variety and movement in (Pest’s) streets, such a blending of the Oriental with the European and such a holiday look about the whole population that it is impossible to feel ennui in the chief city of the Magyars.”  -- English visitor Julia Pardoe, 1840

The city is a pool of different ideas, mind-sets, and activities built by communities, societies and groups. If we define culture as “ordinary” as Raymond Williams would do then the alternative cultures we encounter are the events of the everyday.  Cultures cannot simply be categorized according to race, class, nation, age, gender etc. A person in their lifetime can belong to multiple cultural groups simultaneously. 

Alternative can be defined as “other”, going against the mainstream; however what we deem to be the mainstream is a fictitious creation of our societal expectations, a normative understanding of whom “we” are.

The idea of the Urban Space can also be, or rather is defined in terms of population density, but is this a realistic picture of what it is to belong to an Urban Space? The population of the city has expanded dramatically since the last century.  The migration into the cities has meant not only that the city’s pollution has increased but that the picture of the city has also changed in part to the global market, multimedia access and international cultural awareness, to build different cultural practices, artistic endeavors and a multicultural city. 

These changes can enrich the cultural life of the city on one hand, but can also create tension in the presence of the unfamiliar, on the other.  Misunderstandings and prejudice can occur which fosters collectivity of certain groups to create Alternative Cultures within a condensed space. 


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