Monthly Archives: January 2014

Day 3: Saturday 11th January

Professor Swati Chattopadhyay (University of California, Santa Barbara) opened the final day of the workshop. ‘Of Small Spaces’ drew attention to the reading of ordinary spaces in the city. Several case studies demonstrated the thresholds of the city: the bottlekhannah, the house of the Tagore family in Jorasanko and vehicular art. The bottlekhannah, a peripheral space in the colonial kitchen for food storage was read as the nexus of power in the home. The inventories found in George Atkinson (1859), ‘Curry and Rice on Forty Plates’, provided records of material culture and insight into colonial encounter. The cultivating of ephemeral spaces was further evidenced by the visual culture of Calcutta’s buses and the small sidewalk spaces of the city. Giving visibility to these spaces extended the investigation into the city providing new analytic zones.

‘A City Rent Free: Calcutta Evictions’ presented by Professor Swapan Chakravorty (Jadavpur University) considered the history of the city as a history of evictions. The paper spoke of the strategic relocation of minorities throughout the city’s trajectory. The zones of the city constituted by small scale migrations and evictions by the Calcutta Improvement Trust were given prominence depicting the city as an urban puzzle. The floor opened for discussion. Participants were interested in the cultivation of a spatial logic for the found spaces of the city. Particular attention was draw to the reading of the shelves of the bottlekhannan. Professor Chakravorty commented on the structuralist desire to look for patterns with her interest lying in the flow of goods in these stores.  Concerns with privileging the ordinary and formerly invisible were considered in the context of archives.

The River Ganges was the focal point of the papers given by Dr Nilanjana Deb (Jadavpur University) and Cleo Roberts (PhD Researcher, University of Liverpool). Dr Deb provided an account of the mortality in the city: ‘Death and the City: Cremation Grounds and the Kolkata Waterfront’. Reading the site as a ‘curious heterotopia’, the paper detailed the waterfront neighbourhoods, described by Alan Ginsberg in the 1960s, as a site of colonial encounter. Changes in social rituals and the practice of cremation of corpses along the Ganges exacerbated colonial concerns with the containment of death, and led to stringent regulations such as the policing of burning ghats. ’Imagined Geographies: exporting the Ganges’ presented representations of the River Ganges from a European perspective. Roberts introduced depictions of the river from Roman sources such as the Tabula Peutingeriana and Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain, to demonstrate the envisioning of the site as a paradise. Through her continued PhD project, ‘Waterscapes and Urbanism’ she intended to use the River to unravel facets of European encounter in the city.

Tabula Peutingeriana

Tabula Peutingeriana

The closing sessions of ETIC workshop provided further insight into Kolkata. Dr Abhijit Gupta (Director, Jadavpur University Press) presented ‘Under the Banyan Tree: Print and Place in Colonial Calcutta’. The paper explored the dynamics of print production and distribution during colonial administration. Anurag Mazumdar (Assistant Editor, Economic and Political Weekly) spoke on ‘Mapping spaces in transition: From Boipara to Barnaparichay in College Street, Kolkata’. The paper examined the politics of the changing spatial order in post-liberalisation Kolkata. Analysing the logic of culture, Mazumdar looked at the new spatial order of the city through the role of the pedestrian/‘flaneur’. Somak Mukherjee (NAAC Fellow, Jadavpur University) ended the session with his paper, ‘Riding on the Edge: Discipline, Order and Popular Imagination of Space in the Calcutta Metro’. The Metro, executed between 1969-1984, was presented as a complex, discursive and hybridized space of encounter. Commenting on public engagement in the space and representations in mass media and popular culture, Mukerjee discussed the space as ‘indefinitely other’.

A panel discussion between Professor Tapati Guha-Thakurta (Director, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta), Shri Partha Ranjan Das and Shri Manish Chakraborty (Architects) concluded the day. The session ‘Heritage, Conservation and the Living City’ discussed the legalities and practicalities of conserving heritage. The participants drew attentions to the need for effective heritage legislation that could be successfully applied to the city. The three day workshop was closed by Professor Supriya Chaudhuri who thanked all those involved for creating an informative and important programme. Participants were invited to Jadavpur University Press for the  ‘Photographing Kolkata’ exhibition.


Day 2: Friday 10th January 2014

The plenary session of the day two of the ETIC workshop featured two papers on Chandigarh from Professor Kiran Joshi (School of Architecture, Chitkara University) and Dr Iain Jackson (School of Architecture, University of Liverpool). Professor Joshi presented ‘Envisioning Chandigarh: The Making of a Modern Utopia on Indian Soil’. Having started documenting the architecture of the area in 1997 her work sought to clarify ideas of Indian modernity. Using examples from Ambala near Chandigarh and the Solarium at Jamnagar, Professor Joshi spoke of an indigenous modernity that borrowed technologies and modes of thought from the West. The utopian vision for Chandigarh was discussed in the context of this modernism. Plans by Le Corbusier in the early 1950s were presented as consistent with this modernism. The use of local building materials, labour and the suitability to climate demonstrated Le Corbusier’s adherance to Nehru’s ideology of independence for the new town.

‘Fry and Drew’s contribution to Chandigarh: health and education’ introduced by Dr Iain Jackson focused on the European planning of the Chandigarh as envisioned by the British architects, Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew. Concerned with the development of a healthy city, characteristic of the Modernist project, their designs were based on sanitation. Ventilation spaces and communal squares were planned to respond to this challenge. The Leisure Valley built in 1951 created a ‘space of opportunity’ that accommodated exercise stations, alpine trains and art collections to improve the health and wellbeing of users. Dr Jackson credited Drew with driving this socially motivated design, citing her ethnographic style of research within the community.

Government College for Women, sector 11, Chandigarh

Government College for Women, sector 11, Chandigarh

 Professor Nandini Das (School of English, University of Liverpool) closed the morning speaking on ‘Goa, 1583’. Her interest in the memories encapsulated in a city and how a foreigner mediates this view had led her to Goa, a port city: a portal to India. The paper examined Goa as a space of contact, a site of negotiation between cultures detailed through the narrative of three groups of travellers. The detainment of the first Englishmen in the city arriving in December 1583, John Newbery and Ralph Fitch by the ruling Portuguese and subsequent release by Jan Huygen van Linschoten demonstrated the city as a space of contact. The arrival of these Englishmen was particularly significant since it established the basis for the foundation of the East India Company approximately twenty years later. Recovering Goa as a city-palimpsest, Professor Das provided details of the memories of these multiple agents. The arrival of a group of Japanese teenagers sent to the city by the Jesuit missionaries during the winter of 1583, demonstrated the city’s rich history and importance as a site of encounter during the Renaissance period.

The afternoon session addressed Pondicherry as a site of French encounter. Dr Ian Magedera (School of Histories, Languages and Cultures, University of Liverpool) presented ‘Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu and Cultural Flows’. Discussing the site as ‘une fenetre ouverte sur la France’, the paper provided a historically based analysis of Pondicherry. Regarded as a cultural implant of the French in 1955, Magedera discussed the city as a hub of heritage. The contemporary city was posited as a complex of cultural flows. Citing Appadurai, the social dimensions of these flows were discussed. The continuation of the site as a cultural commodity was emphasised through the global representation of the city as anti-modernist. Swati Bhattacharya (Research Scholar, Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Development) continued to detail the French presence in Pondicherry. Her paper, ‘Spaces of Encounter in Pondicherry’, focused on the identity politics of the site as reflected in the division of the built environment into black and white town. Her research intended to redefine the colonial encounter.

The second day closed with Pramantha Mohun Tagore’s (Postgraduate Student, Jadavpur University) paper, ‘Architecture, Memory and the Changing Civic Sphere: A Study of Selected Houses of North Calcutta’. Concerned with the preservation of colonial heritage after the abolition of the Zamindari rights in 1956, the paper focused on the ‘Great Houses’ of Calcutta. Two residences built by Maharaja Nabakrishna, commonly known as Nobkissen, were presented as examples of often overlooked native architecture. The buildings dated from the 17th to 19th century were described as enclaves from which the Calcuttan elite propagated art and culture. The paper was followed by a short talk on ‘Musical Cultures of Calcutta’ by Professor Amlan Das Gupta (Director, School of Cultural Texts and Records, Jadavpur University) and a sarod recital by Pramantha Mohun Tagore in Vivekananda Hall.

Envisioning the Indian City: Spaces of Encounter, UGC-UKIERI Project, University of Liverpool and Jadavpur University International Workshop

9-11 January 2014,  HL Roy Memorial Hall

Day 1: Thursday 9th January 2014

The inaugural international workshop for the ETIC project was opened on Thursday 9th January 2014 by Professor Ananda Lal (Coordinator, CAS programme) and Professor Prodosh Bhattacharya (Head of Department of English, Jadavpur University).  Professor Supriya Chaudhuri introduced the three day workshop, thanking Professor Nandini Das for leading the investigation into considering Indian cities in different ways. The Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta,  the British Library and the extended network of organisers from Jadavpur University and the University of Liverpool were thanked for their support.

The day opened with Professor Sukanta Chaudhuri (Jadavpur University/All Souls College, Oxford) presenting ‘Post-Independence Kolkata: Vision and Reality’. The paper addressed the urban development of Kolkata, drawing attention to the plans of the Calcutta Municipality Development Authority (CMD) and Calcutta Improvement Trust (CIT) throughout the twentieth century. The Burgess Model was cited as a model erroneously applied in the CMD development plan in 1996. The River Hooghly was discussed by Professor Chaudhuri as a barrier which flanked the business and residential zones of Calcutta, leading to the development of Calcutta along the Eastern bank, contesting the circular development proposed by Burgess.

The influx and patterns of migration from East Pakistan in 1946-1970 and 1981 were considered as an important factor in the endless melting-pot politics of the city. The impact of migration was said to have given a unique character to the metropolitan city. Movement into the previously dormant suburbs of Calcutta since the eighties has opened up the city and put pressure on infrastructure. The new technology hubs and global consumerism of the middle classes have made the Burgess model less relevant and compounded the complexity of Calcutta’s development, independent of vision or plan. Professor Chaudhuri urged that the radical expansion of the city be rethought and physical infrastructure be addressed.

The second session of the morning focused on Patrick Geddes’ work and the bazars of Calcutta. Dr Partho Datta (Zakir Husain Evening College, University of Delhi) spoke on Geddes’ ideas and the report made for the CIT in 1919 on the Barrabazar area, North Calcutta. His two-pronged methodology; diagnostic survey and conservative surgery was demonstrative of the notion of the city as a body in need of surgical remedy. Professor Datta detailed the Geddes’ recommendations for the area and the stakeholders he had to negotiate between. Following his conservative surgery approach, influenced by Darwinian thought, Geddes considered the minimum destruction for the maximum improvement through 46 small cuts into the web of streets that comprised the bazar area. The incisions were intended to create social spaces that would retain and preserve the lanes and create a ‘peaceful path to social reform’ as described by Ebenezer Howard.

Patrick Geddes, Conservative Surgery

Patrick Geddes, Conservative Surgery

Following a presentation by Shri Arunendu Bandyopadhyay (Designer and Engineer) on the close relationship between Geddes and Tagore, Sujaan Mukherjee (ETIC Project Fellow) introduced his research, ‘Ordering Bazars: Two Case Studies in Context’. Working on the New Market and Chhatu Babu-Latu Babu’s Market, the paper presented Mukherjee’s initial investigations into the colonial influence in the areas during the late eighteenth century. Predicated on the paranoia of sanitation, the bazar was understood as a space of sickness associated with lepers, vagrants and rogues. The methodology approached the areas from an archival and contemporary perspective. Mukherjee spoke of his intention to understand changes in consumer patterns in the area through site-specific interviews.

Following the opening sessions, participants were invited to lunch at Suparba, a Bamboo house designed by Dr. Madhumita Roy (Head of the Department of Architecture, Jadavpur University). The afternoon then opened with Dr Keya Dasgupta’s (formerly CSSS Calcutta) presentation on ‘Alternative Cartographies: Neighbourhoods, Identities and their Maps in Colonial Calcutta’. Speaking on the interests represented by mapping in colonial Calcutta, Dr Dasgupta introduced ‘vernacular endeavours’. The 1884 ‘Bengali Hand Map of Calcutta’ created by Romanauth Dass represented a departure from the English model. The directory, in the Bengali language, detailed roads and lanes along with the sites ascribed to doctors, lawyers and residences of affluent persons. Together with an imagined map of Calcutta from a 1920s children’s journal by Abanindranath Thakur and Sukumar Ray, the paper illustrated how maps could function as text to reveal counter representations of the city.

Professor Nilanjana Gupta and Dr Nandini Saha (School of Media, Communication and Culture, Jadavpur University) concluded with an account of their ongoing work, ‘Salt Lake City: Caught between two worlds’. The investigative project is producing research on the distinct living patterns in the district. Looking at the site from its planning in 1964 by the Yugoslavian Dobrivoje Toskovic the work is interested in the effectiveness of this manufactured ‘neighbourhood’. Professor Gupta provided images of the grid plan and the six types of road designed by the architect. The sociological ideology of the space was detailed and exemplified by the legal restrictions that prohibit the transferring of leaseholds. Dr Saha commented on the distinct role of newspapers in creating Benedict Anderson’s notion of an ‘imagined community’. The presentation generated much discussion amongst participants on the illegal and informal dynamic of the area. The disorderly potentials were said to have been realized in parts of Sector 5 inhabited by street sellers and unauthorized guest houses. The day closed with a screening of ‘Sthaaniya Sambaad/Spring in the Colony’ preceded by a video-interview with its director, Moinak Biswas.

Encountering Pondicherry

Reading Group Seminar open to all

Wednesday 29th January 2014

2-4pm at School of Arts Library, 19 Abercrombie Square, 1st floor


Dr Tariq Jazeel (Department of Geography, UCL) presents

‘Architecture, Auroville and the spatial politics of utopian ‘city’ building in Southern India’.


Dr Andy Davies (Department of Geography and Planning, University of Liverpool) presents

“Exile in the homeland? French India, transnational revolutionaries and the life of Subramania Bharati”
Followed by a discussion of Preeti Chopra, ‘Pondicherry: A French Enclave in India’


The SAALG conference will take place at Cambridge University Library on Friday 21st February 2014. The conference will focus on archive collections relating to South Asia – there will be talks and an opportunity to visit the new Centre for South Asia Studies building as well as viewing of items from the Royal Commonwealth Society collections.

For more information: South Asia Archive & Library Group Blog

Transnational Architecture Group

Chandigarh Exhibitions in Canada and Belgium

There are two exhibitions on the architecture and planning of Chandigarh currently on show – one at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, and the other by Archipel at Kortrijk, Belgium.

The CCA exhibition is entitled How architects, experts, politicians, international agencies and citizens negotiate modern planning: Casablanca Chandigarh, and has been curated by Maristella Casciato and Tom Avermaete. It runs until 20th April 2014 and a publication to accompany the exhibition is to be released early 2014. I haven’t seen the CCA exhibition, but its extensive use of Pierre Jeanneret archival material promises to open up new vantage points from which we can view this intriguing city.

The Archipel exhibition has been curated following a visit to Chandigarh by 130 Belgian architects who descended onto the city, and captured not only the architecture but also something of the daily life of…

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