Monthly Archives: November 2013

Ahead of the RGS on Tuesday 26th November, a short article and further readings on the circulation of photographs between India and Europe written by Sophie Gordon (2007)



The Envisioning the Indian City project presents ‘Visual Representation and the City’ a reading group seminar open to all on Tuesday 26th November from 1-4pm at the School of the Arts Library, 19 Abercromby Square, 1st floor.


Professor Kathleen James-Chakraborty (Art History, University College Dublin) will be presenting ‘Kolkata and Berlin: A Tale of Two Cities’. Following this there will be a number of roundtable discussions focused on the work of Upton (2008) and Pinney (2003).


That the study of the city cannot be encompassed by a single discipline is a commonplace.  A generation of architectural historians have drawn upon geography, history and literature to write histories of individual cities around the world; scholars from other disciplines have adopted a similar range.  Particular attention has been focused on moments of modernization and the transformations wrought by colonialism, capitalism, and industrialization.  A key tension is between describing the creation of places — urban spaces and the buildings that frame them — and explaining how they have been inhabited and experienced by actors from varying backgrounds, as well as represented in words and images.  This presentation will focus on a brief comparison of my personal experience of two cities, Kolkata and Berlin, over the past twenty-five years, and of the way in which they have been written about during the same period. While discussions of both increasingly focus on the audience for architecture rather entirely on those responsible for constructing the city, significant differences remain.  Scholarship on Berlin has largely focused on the issue of memory; that on Kolkata on colonialism.  The first focuses on individual buildings whose considerable architectural merit is widely recognized; the second largely on space.  Civic structures dominate both discussions, although both cities have long been important locations for economic exchange.  Finally, the role of foreigners is often overlooked in the case of Berlin and, if anything, exaggerated in that of Kolkata.
Kathleen James-Chakraborty is Professor of Art History at University College Dublin and Chair of the Irish Architecture Foundation.  She was previously a Professor of Architecture at the University of California Berkeley, and a Mercator Visiting Professor at the Ruhr University Bochum.  In August 2015 she will begin a five-year half-time appointment as Vincent Scully Visiting Professor of Architectural History at Yale University.  James-Chakraborty’s latest book Architecture since 1400 will be published in February by the University of Minnesota Press.  A comprehensive survey of architecture and urbanism around the world, it also pays unprecedented attention to gender.  Her previous publications include the edited collection Bauhaus Culture from Weimar to the Cold War (Minnesota, 2006), German Architecture for a Mass Audience (Routledge, 2000), and Erich Mendelsohn and the Architecture of German Modernism (Cambridge, 1997) as well as a number of articles and book chapters about modern architecture in Germany, the United States, and South Asia.  Married to a Bengali, she has visited Kolkata twelve times in the last fourteen years.

As part of our international research, the ETIC project are launching an open source Flickr group ( to create a new visual record of the rich urban histories of our four focal cities: Goa, Kolkata, Pondicherry and Chandigarh.

We welcome contributions from everyone, not only those with an academic interest in the cities. Submissions may take the form of photographs, posters, postcards, prints in which the city is a visible presence.  We look forward to receiving personal visual images to build up a collective picture of what the cities mean to those who have inhabited them in the past, and/or live there now.

We are asking contributors to either upload via Flickr <; or email us <>, along with credits and captions. Please tweet and share this link via social media, Facebook and email so that we can build up a plentiful archive.

The ETIC project is the first time that an attempt is being made to go beyond single-discipline approaches to understand how these cities were shaped by Indian and European exchanges. ETIC has brought together literary scholars, architects, art historians, social scientists and urban geographers. It combines frontline, ‘on-site’ research with a pooling of expertise and access to crucial archival material in both countries, placing geographically and culturally specific research on Indian cities on the map of global research into the idea of the city.

Envisioning the Indian City: Spaces of Encounter

First International Workshop, UGC-UKIERI ETIC Project (Jadavpur University India – Liverpool University UK)

January 9-11, H.L. Roy Memorial Auditorium, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India

The modern city is a central subject of sociological, cultural and historical enquiry. Marx, Engels and Weber examined the city as a product of economic processes; Simmel and Lefebvre wrote on its social and spatial character; Benjamin, De Certeau, and Pierre Nora’s work links memory and urban space. The history of migration, conquest, and commerce in India made its cities ‘palimpsests of real and diverse experiences and memories’ (Huyssen 2008). Indian cities have acted as crucibles of encounters with Europe and the world.  Each city can be read as a sedimented space, in terms of built environment and urban geographies, of human settlements, migration and population flows, and the cultures that shape the urban landscape. This workshop is the first international forum for exchange of ideas and current research arising out of the UGC-UKIERI funded project, ‘Envisioning the Indian City: cross-cultural exchanges in colonial and post-colonial India’ (University of Liverpool and Jadavpur University: website at The project seeks to examine four Indian city-sites – Goa, Pondicherry, Calcutta and Chandigarh – as spaces of colonial and/or postcolonial encounter.

Three of these cities grew out of encounters with European colonisers engaged in contesting imperial projects: the Portuguese, the French, and the British. One, Chandigarh, is a creation of the modern Indian state. The workshop will examine the histories of settlement, building and transformation in each of these sites, attempting to build up, not a connected history, but a collective understanding of dispersed urban experiences. Calcutta/Kolkata has a rich history of urban planning and architectural improvement, while it also witnessed chaotic human settlement and population growth.  The strategic coastal location of another port city, Goa, became the catalyst for interaction between European and local powers from the sixteenth century to the present day. The Union Territory of Puducherry/Pondicherry is uniquely inscribed by the legacy of its 296-year old history as the administrative centre of the French in India; it also contains the ‘ideal’ township of Auroville. Chandigarh is a ‘postcolonial’ creation, one of the first planned ‘modern’ cities of India, embodying in the process of its creation the tensions between colonial notions of urban development, modernist architecture, and the discourse of Indian modernity.

Papers (30 minutes) may deal with any one or more of the above cities, or compare them to other South Asian cities if appropriate. Themes may include, but are not restricted to:

Planning the city: architects, planners, and visionaries

Urban flows: people, resources and commodities

Spaces in the city: areas/ neighbourhoods as sites of encounter, settlement, building

Cross-cultural interaction and imaginative identities in the city

Suburbia, expansion and development:

Urban ecologies: the city and its environment(s)

The physical fabric of the city: ‘civic sense’, ‘improvement’, and ‘heritage’

Public and private spaces in the city

Heterotopias: ‘other spaces’ in the city

Synchronic and diachronic changes in the city

Archiving the city: texts, maps, sound records, visual histories

Abstracts to or by 10 December 2013