an exploration of urban identity in the middle of Texas
How does a rapidly changing city avoid losing its soul? First by discarding the idea that it has a soul. Cities do not have souls. They have traditions and histories along with infrastructures and institutions that determine the continuation or degradation of those traditions and histories. Austin’s astounding growth over the past decades has been the result of a balance between tradition and innovation. In fact, Austin’s greatest tradition might be one of constant innovation, in artistic performance (in a wide range of forms—music, dance, theater, performance art, etc.) as well as in entrepreneurship (food, game design, silicon circuits, etc.). This fact is not a secret, but maintaining this balance is difficult. Austin must maintain its tradition of openness to new ideas as it nurtures the willingness to risk one’s personal soul in the pursuit of those ideas.
Barry Shank is Chair of the Department of Comparative Studies at the Ohio State University where he teaches courses on popular music, cultural theory and American studies. He is the author of the forthcoming The Political Force of Musical Beauty from Duke University Press.