urbanism and suburbanism

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The purpose of this study is to analyze and explain the notions of urbanization and suburbanism in relation to the content of two articles: Ann Forsyth's Defining Suburbs and Mohammad Qadeer, Sandeep Agrawal, and Alexander Lovell's Development of Ethnic Enclaves. It also attempted to examine the significance of these two concepts and their impact on the changing landscape throughout time.

Urbanism is defined geographically as the conceptual study of specific ways in which persons interact with one another and with their environment, particularly in towns and cities (Latham et al., 2009). Urbanism refers to the complexity of traits that form the characteristic manner of life in the cities. In contrast, urbanization entails the enhancement and extension of such factors (Wirth, 1938).

In sociology, urbanism describes the way of life of an individual. It refers to the unification of urban culture and origin of urbanization in society. Urbanism is both a social and economic phenomena that takes into account the dynamic interaction between technological and social factors (Marashizadeh, 2013). Urbanism also refers to the connection of certain characteristic concepts with urbanization as well as the urban way of life. Urbanism aims to develop the pattern of urban life since it is a continuously changing phenomenon (Latham et al., 2009).

There are four properties of urbanism, namely, impersonality, specialty of function, standardization of behavior and heterogeneity of population. Urbanism is different from the concept of city, since a city refers to a place that is distinguishable through its size, density, population and social diversity. In addition, urbanism describes a complex aspect of social interactions (Marashizadeh, 2013).

Suburbanism considers the movement of populations from urban areas into the suburbs, and this leads to the concept of suburban sprawling. In sociology, suburbanism is also considered as a way of life (Forsyth, 2012).

Suburbanism can be associated with the quantity of pull and push factors. Pull factors refer to open areas with the perspective of being one with nature, lower suburban house rates and property taxes as well as the growth of job opportunities in the suburbs. Push factors, on the other hand, involve population density, industrial and traffic pollution and a perspective of lower standards of living in the inner cities. Developments in transportation and communication motivate more people to embrace suburbanization (Weller, 2008).

The Cultural Landscape

The cultural landscape is defined as an expression of activity, communication, interaction, cue, temporal, meaning, territory, transformation and systematized control on the basis of full idealism on concept practice. Cultural landscapes entail a combination between manifestations and components of nature that must be analyzed together, including the consideration of settlement systems as well as the relationship between housing and location. Geographers have also defined the cultural landscape as the process or strategy in order to modify a specific land, environment and topography created by men out of concrete and abstract activities present in the community or ethnography (Marashizadeh, 2013).

Cultural landscapes are classified into three types. First, landscape is defined as what is intentionally designed and created by men such as a garden, park and the like. Second, landscape as what has evolved as a result from changes in society, economy, administration, religion, and belief. Finally, it refers to what is involved in religion, art and culture or natural elements. Cultural landscapes could be further categorized as historic sites, historic designed landscape, historic vernacular landscape and ethnographic landscapes (Marashizadeh, 2013).

Landscape urbanism attempts to be involved with the openness and unpredictability of both natural and cultural systems. Landscape urbanism therefore connects time with space. It emphasizes the creativity of the natural and cultural worlds, unifying the two into a hybrid that is in turn subject to continuous evolution. Landscape urbanism has far less faith in controlling urban dynamics, but it shares with smart growth an interest in participative processes rather than dominant forms. Landscape urbanism now exists to reassert the landscape as basic information for contemporary urbanism (Weller, 2008).

Summary and Critique of Defining Suburbs

There is no exact definition as to what a suburb is. As such, this article written by Ann Forsyth (2012) aims to evaluate the various definitions of a suburb on the basis of structure and other related issues. Suburbs have been defined based from various perspectives in terms of physical appearance, culture, location and transportation. The definition of suburbs greatly relies on the conversational and mental aspects of people which can undergo development or reestablishment in the future. Moreover, definitions on suburbs were described as socially constructed or based from abstract concepts due to the fact that it focused on some aspects of the suburbs.

In this particular article, the suburbs were defined in a way that it concentrated more on its sociological and a few points, on its geographical and cultural concepts. This somehow adds a unique touch on how the whole article was constructed. Moreover, both positive and negative facets of a suburb were also displayed.

Historians have made an effort to define the suburbs accordingly based on sociological aspects in some studies done on the same topic. What was highlighted in the article are the positive definitions of a suburb as well as what it lacks. This is somehow related to the definitions proposed in the work of Herbert J. Gans (1963) as he was able to make a comparison between a city and a suburb as well as explain the impact of moving from an urban area to a suburban area.

The definition also focused on the importance of suburbanity as it was highlighted that most suburbs are residential in terms of its setting. The features of the suburban landscape were also highlighted in an effective manner since it dealt with physical and social dimensions as well as population densities (Gans, 1963). The function of suburbs with regard to common activities and modes of transportation were also discussed in Forsyth’s article. Suburbs were also defined politically and culturally based on concerns such as exclusivity and diversity of the suburban way of life. Details as to the developer or designer of a suburb as well as other analytical definitions were also taken into consideration.

Nevertheless, part of defining what a suburb is should somehow include its origin or historical background. History forms the basis of the physical setting of a suburb and this was not exactly tackled in Forsyth’s article. The first American suburbs were developed preceding the Great Depression, and its features include the traditional housing stock and street front commercial districts that are of great importance to the elite class. The second batch of suburbia, which was established on a large scale during the post-war period, does not include these amenities. Such homes and communities were considered to be aesthetically challenged artifacts with little to offer in the turbulent metropolitan competition for wealthier residents (Garnett, 2015).

Summary and Critique of Evolution of Ethnic Enclaves

The evolution of enclaves in urban areas or cities has been explained on the basis of structure. What occurs to enclaves over a period of time has not been fully assessed. Nevertheless, enclaves are supposed to squander as immigrants incorporate in the mainstream. It is therefore important to conduct a study of enclaves in order to comprehend their internal dynamics and to unveil the processes of integration or separation in ethnic minorities. The growth and changes in enclaves however remains unknown.

This article written by Qadeer and his co-workers (2010) revolves around four main goals, namely, to explain the evolution of enclaves over a period of time, to determine factors which lead to growth and modifications, to analyze the aspects of the internal organization of enclaves, and to assess the connection between the growth of enclaves and the concept of immigration.

The article concentrated on seven ethnic groups, namely, Italians, Jews, Portuguese, South Asians, Chinese, Caribbean and African, although only five of which have established enclaves. Three of these groups, namely, Italians, Jews and Portuguese, largely represent earlier groups of immigrants from the 1950s and 1960s. The comparison of these enclaves with those of the recent immigrants from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean gave rise to the assumption that the integration of immigrants results in the diffusion of their enclaves. The aim of the article was to widen the explanation of enclaves to white groups who are of European ancestry and who were integrated in the Canadian society. The ethnicity of the resident rather than his status as an immigrant is the primary focus of this article.

Enclaves and ghettos were both compared in terms of their physical features. An enclave refers to an institutional and spatial concept. Ethnicity is of primary importance in specifically defining what an enclave is. The completeness of institutions, businesses and services of a community makes up the definition of an enclave as well. On the other hand, a ghetto refers to a neighborhood where ethnicity and racism is of great importance due to social isolation which can be observed in the society. The spatial separation of Blacks who are in the lower class is correlated with the term ghetto in the North American setting (Qadeer et al. 2010).

The definition of ethnic enclaves in the work of Qadeer et al. (2010) is comparable to that of other studies and articles done on enclaves. Ethnic enclaves are usually normally located in urban areas, within which culturally distinct minority communities maintain ways of life largely separate from those of the generally larger communities that surround them. Ethnic enclaves have long played, and continue to play, significant and normally peaceful roles in bridging the periods between the arrivals of new and culturally different immigrant groups and their assimilation into the society. At the same time, they have also, to some degree, prolonged assimilation periods, and their presence has sometimes been perceived as an inflammatory refusal on the immigrants’ part to join a certain country (Zucchi, 2007).

The factors that generate and continue to lead to the existence of these ethnic neighborhoods are variable and in some cases, distinctive. One persistent element, however, has undeniably been the normal human desire to stay within one’s comfort zone and related hesitance to move outside one’s cultural community into a new homeland (Zucchi, 2007). It is normally one of the fundamental responses to minority status across time and space, and where sufficient members of a person’s point of origin to maintain the development of an ethnic neighborhood are living, ethnic enclaves are present among immigrant countries throughout the world (Le, 2017).

Some factors also work to promote and sustain such enclaves. None is more common or essential than the dual nature of the culture shock that groups from various ethnic backgrounds experience when they first encounter one another. For newcomers, the immersion into a foreign culture and the adjustment with an entirely different economic setting can join together in order to generate a strong desire and redefine a familiar environment. Such necessary adjustments include the urban rather than suburban setting or urban rather than rural setting, as well as the existence of a different dominant language and religion. The incoming immigrants’ recreation of a former homeland often from a single village or province guarantees security in a particular environment. Such environment can serve as a vessel within which one’s daily life cannot be too far from that of the land of origin. It should be preserved, in such a way that a familiar religion can be practiced and an immigrant entrepreneur class can develop, as well as the process of adjusting to the new world can be done easily (Zucchi, 2007).


The concept of urbanism was highlighted in a different way through its association with immigration and the ethnic enclaves. At the same time, a different perspective was taken into consideration with regard to suburbanism through the various definitions of a suburb. Generally, the two articles that were analyzed were constructed in such a way as to give an entirely different meaning and understanding on the importance of urbanism and suburbanism, not just on a geographical scale, but also on a sociocultural level.


Forsyth, A. (2012). Defining Suburbs. Journal of Planning Literature, 27 (3), 270-281

Gans, H. (1963). Effects of the move from city to suburb. In The Urban Condition, edited by Leonard Duhl, 189-198. New York, NY: Basic Books

Garnett. N.S. (2015). “Old Suburbs meets New Urbanism.” Journal Articles, Retrieved from http://scholarship.law.nd.edu/law_faculty_scholarship/1211

Latham, A., McCormack, D., McNamara, K., & McNeil, D. (2009). Key Concepts in Urban Geography. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc. Retrieved from http://donaldpoland.com/site_documents/urban_geography/Key_Concepts_in_Urban_G eography_-_Lecture_Notes.pdf

Le, C.N. (2017). “Ethnic Communities & Enclaves”. Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. Retrieved from http://www.asian-nation.org/enclaves.shtml

Marashizadeh, M. (2013). Relation between Eco-Urbanism and Cultural Landscape. International Journal of Architecture and Urban Development, 3 (3), 65-74

Qadeer, M., Agrawal, S.K., & Lovell, A. (2010, June 27). Evolution of Ethnic Enclaves in the Toronto Metropolitan Area, 2001-2006. International Migration & Integration, 11, 315- 339. DOI 10.1007/s12134-010-0142-8

Weller, R. (2008). Landscape (Sub) Urbanism in Theory and Practice. Landscape Journal, 27 (2 -08), 254-278

Wirth, L. (1938). Urbanism as a Way of Life. The American Journal of Sociology, 44 (1), 1-24

Zucchi, J. (2007). A History of Ethnic Enclaves in Canada. Canada’s Ethnic Group Series, Booklet No. 31. Ottawa: The Canadian Historical Association

May 10, 2023


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