Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers -

Urban Design and Planning

ISSN 1755-0793 | E-ISSN 1755-0807
Volume 164 Issue 4, December 2011, pp. 233-239
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This paper analyses the current and planned urban and social structure of Riga, the capital of Latvia, in the context of language tension. This tension is grounded in the ethnic diversity of the city, in which the number of Russian-speaking inhabitants is almost equal to the number of Latvians. This paper calls for further analysis of the output of contemporary information technologies implemented in post-socialist and bilingual cities. While planners often focus on social and national tensions in such cities, this text investigates the simultaneously underlying and parallel linguistic barrier that impedes communication between different communities. Analysing policy documents and cultural papers, and applying an anthropological approach based on several years of the author’s own residency in Riga, this text conceptualises language in the post-socialist city as one of the fundamental analytic perspectives to adopt in examining the urban realm. It considers the use of ‘transcendent’ (neutral) language (English in Latvia) as a substitute for the neutral public sphere within which everybody could potentially meet and communicate.

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