Studies of urbanisation deal with city ward movement and modes of settlement; those of the 1950s-1970s urban anthropology heydays concerned Third World ‘peasants in cities’, the ‘adaptive functions’ of kinship and voluntary associations, and the persistence and creation of ethnic identities and political organization.
In anthropology the study of the process of Urbanisation started with a debate on weather rural and urban are two distinctively identifiable and isolated poles or not. The long history of ethnographic research especially because of the dominant paradigm of functionalism, scholars have been of the perception that villages were self sufficient units that doesn’t really have a strong connection with the urban centres. This very notion began to change with the Robert Redfield who developed a model of connection between the rural and urban poles, which is known as the folk-urban continuum. He tried to classify different types of community and historic process, which he illustrated with examples from the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico (Redfield 1941). At one end of the continuum was the "modern" city of Merida, while at the other was a small, "traditional" indigenous village. These two communities represented the most and the least developed types. In comparing them Redfield examined their respective technology, social organization, and worldview (Miner 1952). Thus Merida was a modern city populated with many individuals who participated in national and international affairs, were relatively free to make social and economic decisions, and had modern worldviews. In contrast the "Indians" of the village lived from foraging (see foragers) and swidden agriculture. They had a prescientific worldview and unlike the individual freedom and modernity of the urbanites, they were tightly incorporated into familial and community social relationships that restricted personal freedom. Intermediate between these polar extremes Redfield identified two other communities: a commercial rural "town" with close ties to the city, and the peasant community of Chan Kom, which had a mix of "traditional" and "modern" features but more closely resembled the village. Redfield saw historical change as occurring by the diffusion of modern technology, social forms, and ideas outward from the city toward the folk end of the continuum in a gradual process of modernization.
Robert Redfield later on collaborated with Milton Singer to study the process of urbanisation. With their intensive studies they argued that city is the center of change and that this susccptibility to change is reflected in two types of cities a) orthogenetic and b) heterogenetic. Recognizing the classic distinction between the preindustrial and post-industrial cities, they classified all postindustrial cities as heterogenetic. The orthogenetic city is one which is the center of native bureaucratic functions. Its population is relativelv homogeneous in culture of origin. These centers became the centers of a) Primary urbanization. The trend of primary urbanisation is to coordinate political economic, educational, intellectual and aesthetic activities to the norms provided by Great Tradition. In this process of urbanization the cultural role of the city is to maintain and continuously reintegrate the Great Tradition by injecting elements of Little Tradition through interaction of the city and peasantry. Redfield and Singer state that this form of the city is basically conservative. Although some change does take place as city and countryside interact with each other. They suggest that there is continuity between aspects of the Great Tradition at different points in time. Examples of this form of urbanization include Benares in India and Peking (Peiping) in China.
While orthogenetic cities formed by primary urbanization are preindustrial, heterogenetic cities include one elements of preindustrial city and postindustrial types. Heterogenetic cities include people of different cultural origins as well as from places outside the local social worlds. In such cities these outside influences are from beyond the political boundaries of the state itself; in other cases, they are from beyond the immediate hinterland. The main function of such cities as a place for the exchange of goods and services require standardized value. As a place the divergent cosmologies and lifestyle are juxtaposed, the city becomes a narrator or sources of new ideas. If we refer back to the distinction previously made between great and Little tradition. A heterogenetic city of the preindustrial type is one in which a variety of Great Traditions interact with one another. Shifting our attention to the postindustrial heterogenetic city, we discover two types: the new administrative city and the financial city. The process of secondary urbanisation works in the industrial phase of the city, and is characterised by heterogenetic development. Thus, the effects of secondary urbanisation are those of disintegration. They opine that: “the general consequence of secondary urbanisation is the weakening of suppression of the local and traditional cultures by states of mind that are incongruent with those local cultures.” The first type carries forward the regional tradition, and the city becomes its epi-centre, the second type bring external elements to the city.
[Youtube link to the class lecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2uWn-Qr0oc]