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3.4 Place and city

Pierre Chevrière (1999: 69) defines 'city' (la ville) physically as a combination of paths, signs, specific vegetation and buildings that are accumulated by people gathering in certain numbers and with certain relative density compared with outlying rural surroundings. Kevin Lynch (1981: 353) gives a definition quite like with Chevrière's. However, the one that Lynch gives is not really a verbal definition but a map (Fig. 3), a feature that makes it even more elegant in the eyes of a geographer. Lynch's map has a legend in which Lynch defines the elements of city. In the map itself he shows how these elements are related to each other. Material implication from the legend to the map is equated with the concept of city, thus creating the logical form of the definition.

As noted by Chevrière (1999: 69), this kind of physical definition is not able to grasp the meaning of 'city'--or the citiness of the city--but it is still relevant as a definition for distinguishing cities from other kind of objects. But is city a place, too? To answer that one has to study more about the 'citiness' of cities.

Taina Rajanti (1999: 23) notes that what is common to almost all the definitions of the 'city' is the ambiguity of the concept. All writers seem to agree that giving a definite conceptualisation of the 'city' is impossible. To grasp the meaning of the concept herself Rajanti says that '[C]ity is the home of a human.' She means by this that 'city is the place where one dwells' and 'the place where one is from'. This does not mean that city is one of the possible places where one can live. Rather, it means that 'human dwelling' always includes the concept of city (Rajanti 1999: 29; my italics).

There are numerous other kind of ways to reveal the citiness of cities, too. Giuseppe Zarone (1993: 9-10), for instance, finds the 'city' as a metaphysical entity which as a 'place of living' is where one subordinates oneself to the historico-rational, organisational and architectural forms of the city. It is where the human being is linked with the world in a way that one does not only live in the city but also for the city.

What I find useful in the definition of Rajanti is that it reveals again the analogy between place and landscape, or oneself and one's body. What Chevrière and Lynch define is the landscape character of the city while Rajanti brings out its placeness. It is Rajanti's city that has name, for instance 'Roseau'.

One essential aspect of a city is that it is centered around public space. Vincent Berdoulay (1997: 304-306) defines 'public space' as a large open space which is accessible for any kind of people. It is therefore a space that is sensible to otherness; a space where one can observe the others but also be also observed oneself. According to Berdoulay, the notion of 'place' is associated with 'public space' through culture and everydayness. 'Place' gives the narrative where the other aspects are anchored. Placeness gives public space its coherence which makes it intelligible for human beings and therefore renders it possible. On the other hand, public space as a focus of interaction and a medium for producing meanings expresses in a more explicit way these aspects of place which the notion of 'place' itself leaves implicit.

To use term 'city' of such a small settlement as Roseau is questionnable. Whether a settlement is a village, a town, or a city is defined differently in different countries. Somewhere the term implies the size while somewhere it implies the administrative status of the settlement. However, as noted in The Dictionary of Human Geography (Johnston 2000: 84), originally 'city' is a 'British term for an urban settlement containing a cathedral and the seat of a bishop'. Roseau has both of them. Moreover, its administrative institution is called city council while that of Portsmouth in the north is town council. Nevertheless, Roseau is the capital of an independent state. For these reasons, Roseau deserves to be called a 'city'. Anyway, I am studying Roseau as a 'place', and therefore it does not make any practical difference if it is called 'town' or 'city'.

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