This is worrying me a bit, it reminds me of the beginnings of studying architecture, this European way of defining cities, its population size and what symptoms can you refer to in order to call the space 'a city'. For me, this approach is totally European. It doesn’t really matter if Ramallah is called a city or a village. It's just a human population living in a built-up fabric. Why should we always define things by a fixed caliber? I find this very tedious. I don't find the European case to be a good reference. Therefore Nasser, I have a real problem with your article. It's reference is a European way of looking at the space, it reminds me of the story by Raymond Williams about a guy who was living in a valley (determined to be rural) then he left to London where he became a big-shot intellectual and then returned to the valley. The way he looked at the valley on the return is the way you are looking at Ramallah. I think Ramallah is really different from this, Ramallah is not you or me, it's the people living there, and also not just about those who live there but those who go there, it's a popular way of looking at space.
Actually, there are many points to be made about Eurocentrism. But I have a problem with your absolute differentiation between a European model as the norm and then an Arab, Eastern one. I feel this is a kind of reverse-Orientalism - to interpret our cities as totally different from European ones, there is nothing in common. As if living in a village or a city doesn't matter. I find that problematic. The fact that the discipline was developed under a European cannon is true but it doesn't mean that there are no objectives, no universals, in that. I wasn't trying to slide into a Eurocentric kind of thing, actually the references that you talk about is exactly the kind of self-referencing that happens at an elite and maybe even at a popular level in Ramallah. The point I was trying to make is that people in Ramallah think that they have achieved a kind of metropolitan modernity, in a way this becomes a trade-off. It becomes a positive outcome of a negative situation: you're enclosed, you're confined but somehow you are isolated from the Islamic trends of the rest of Palestinian society. You're given room to urbanize in a metropolitan, secular, modern way. The point was to judge the argument along its own credentials as well. When claiming to be an urban modern metropolis this is what it means. Whether that's a positively good thing or bad is another issue, it doesn't mean it’s a model to be reached. Nor is it sufficient to say that this is just a European model. There are many Eastern cities that have this level of complexity and hold this level of multiplicity, so it's not such a clear-cut European-Oriental dichotomy.
(extracts from conversation N. 1/Oct. 2008)