My good friend and fellow economic anthropologist JR just brought my attention to this article in the Wall Street Journal that outlines the increasing importance of mega-airports their adjacent urban hubs in globalized business. The article uses the term aerotropolis to signify these new amalgams of city life and transit centers, where the vitality of the cities themselves is often subordinate to the airports they serve. The author rightly points out that this signals a different kind of spatial arrangement of people and goods, but doesn’t explore what this means outside of the economic sphere. I would be interested in knowing more about the social transformations engendered by the creation of aerotropoleis and whether these changes were as globally uniform as the physical structures described.
This also got me to thinking about the ways that the urban areas around Central Asian bazaars and free economic zones have been transforming in recent years, adding new residential buildings, entertainment services, and storage facilities next to the bazaars and away from the city centers. While on a much smaller scale than the development profiled in the WSJ article, the lived experiences of many traders are centered on the outskirts of large Central Asian cities, spending almost all their time at various bazaars and the concomitant service areas that have sprung up immediately around them. These bazaatropoleis may prove to be just as important in integrating global economic supply chains as the aerotropoleis touted by the WSJ.