…the first substantial encounter between (to use all terms defined by the center to describe its “Other”) Europe and non-Europe, between what have been called “developed” and “developing” societies, between capitalist and pre-capitalist economies, between white and non-white, between people largely of one cultural and religious backgrounds and those of many other cultural and religious backgrounds, took place in what were to become the colonies, not the the metropole; in the periphery, not the core; in non-Europe, not Europe, whichever conceptualisation we prefer. The first globally multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-continental societies on any substantial scale were in the periphery, not the core. They were constructed under the very specific economic, political, social and cultural conditions of colonialism and they were largely, if not entirely, products of the specific social and spatial conditions of colonial cities. Only since the 1950s (and somewhat earlier in the United States) have such multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-continental urban cultures existed in any substantial way in Europe.
Since the 1950s, different terms have been invented (almost entirely by “the West”) to map […] the global condition: First/Second/Third World, North/South, developed/underdeveloped, core/periphery/semi-periphery, and so on. The First/Second/Third World categories were first applied, using Western economic and social indicators, to measure processes of “development” in different market and centrally-planned economies. Yet if this classification were reinterpreted to refer historically to those societies which, racially, ethnically, socially and culturally first approximated to what today are the culturally diverse, economically, socially and spatially polarised cities in the West but also, increasingly, major cities around the world, what is now the Third World would historically more accurately be labelled the First World, and the First World would become the Third. In other words, the culture, society and space of early twentieth-century Calcutta or Singapore pre-figured the future in a much more accurate way than did that of London or New York. “Modernity” was not born in Paris but rather in Rio.