Concept Note: First International ETIC Workshop

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


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