Janaki Nair: Is there an „Indian“ Urbanism?

Tuesday Seminar, 31 May 2011


Janaki Nair (New Delhi): "Is there an „Indian“ Urbanism?"


To begin with contemporary Bengaluru: the control of urban spaces and societies is attempted through the modalities of planning (despite its well known failures) while simultaneously, the state continuously extends recognition to a wide range of popular illegalities relating to building for residence or commercial use. Reading these recent developments against the grain, I would like to ask three sets of questions:

1. Why has the law been far too pliable an instrument in the planning and governance of cities; indeed, if law is understood as historically the ideological apparatus of the bourgeoisie in its control of urban spaces, has it run its course in the Indian city or is it yet to achieve its true potential?

2. What can the historian contribute to an understanding of the problems of the contemporary Indian city? Is there an Indian urbanism with longer roots in the ways city space was conceived and used, and spatial practices determined?

3. What hopes exist of other modalities evolving than the recourse to law, as a way of increasing the predictability and legibility
of Indian cities, beyond enclaves of planning?