ETIC Day 2 Report

Tuesday 18th August 2015

The second day opened with two papers addressing the architectural development and planning of Chandigarh. Iain Jackson (Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, University of Liverpool) explored the overlooked and quotidian portions of the city in his paper, ‘Chandigarh Dwellings: Ghastly Good Taste or Flamboyant Modernism’. Departing from the over-cited work on the city by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, he detailed his early research into private developments which have avoided similar ossification. 

His documentation of these private dwellings showed idiosyncratic modification contra to the city’s founding vision. Discussing this independence from the Government’s arbitration of taste and aesthetic agenda, Jackson proposed a series of classifications including Punjabi Baroque. He stated that this peacock flamboyancy and non-utilitarian adaptation showed Chandigarh remained open, unresolved and signalled the failure of modernist notions of ‘home’. 

New Chandigarh villa

New Chandigarh villa

Melissa Smith (Banduksmith Studio/Visiting Faculty, CEPT Ahmedabad) spoke on ‘Chandigarh plans un-planned’ The paper focused on the un-planned nature of Chandigarh as an enriching force often overlooked by the predominance of Le Corbusier’s unjustifiably inflated legacy. Looking at architecture as the beginning of the evolving city organisation, Smith detailed the Banduksmith Studio Ageing Modernism project. Her research on shop typology showed that the city had accommodated and adapted these regulated spaces. The city manifested interesting and pleasant surprises which reinvented austere forms, swerving away from Le Corbusier’s concrete rigidities

The discussion opened to the floor and addressed Chandigarh’s other authors, those transforming the space contravening central regulation. Religious communities and informal economies were acknowledged for their interaction in the city. Whilst religion was assimilated, migrant labour was maintained at a distance from Chandigarh, which held onto its claim as a ‘slum-free city’. 

The next session introduced Goa as a city of complexity and point of overlapping and multiple identities. Jonathan Gil Harris (Professor of English, Ashoka University) introduced ‘Goa and the Sixteenth Century Judeo-Muslim Nexus’. Velha Goa of this period, one of the largest cities in the world, was a palimpsest combining Christian structures and Bijapur Sultanate traces. With transnational intimacy, the city fostered unexpected inhabitants and linguistic multiplicity followed. Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese and Konkani languages were used by Andalusian and non-Andalusian ‘new Christians’, Muslim merchants, and Sephardic Jews. The paper focused on the Judeo-Muslim network of trade, and the publication of Garcia da Orta’s Colóquios dos simples e drogas he cousas medicinais da Índia at Goa in 1563.  Goa was, as Harris stated, a place of ‘connected histories’ and timeless geography, where borders and linguistic identities merged, notions of state and culture were inverted, and ‘Christian’ surfaces bore traces of a covert Judeo-Muslim connection. 

Garcia de Orta

Garcia de Orta commemorated

Rochelle Pinto (Research Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Delhi) presented ‘Collective commerce – the city of Bombay, the village in Goa’. Utilising Konkani newspapers from the late nineteenth century Bombay, her paper looked at the newsprint realism and the place of Goa’s print voice following migration to Bombay. Advertisements addressed to Goan migrants appeared like a map of the condition of displacement and assimilation. Though laying claim to dispossession, the production of text by Catholic Goans Pinto argued, would have weighed towards the upper castes. The close reading of the newspapers established that the place the print voice claimed were the street of Bombay and the village in Goa. 

Animesh Rai (Alliance Française de Pondicherry) concluded the morning addressing the historical relationship of the French in Pondicherry. ‘To be, or not to be, French: the balancing act of Pondicherry’ analysed the nature of French influence in the region using the theory of creolization. Looking at the historic and contemporary city, the paper discussed the conflictual nature of this juxtapostion of cultures. Rai stressed the relative nature of creolization and the importance of recognising the larger context of India as a nation state. 

The audience discussion considered the dietary practices of sixteenth century Goa and the means by which pork was used as a tool of the inquisition. The body, Harris remarked, was an important part of da Orta’s engagement with the city and his own was the site of experimentation for his researches. He reinforced the statelessness of Goa which, as highlighted by further conversation, found articulation in the rhetoric of Pondicherry’s Auroville. 

The afternoon opened with Dhrubajyoti Ghosh (Special Advisor, Agricultural Ecosystems, Commission on Ecosystem Management, IUCN). ‘My Tryst with Trash: A Community of the ‘Vandals’’, presented a case study of Kolkata’s Dhapa, a space used as the municipal dumping ground. Started in 1985, his research charted the historiography of the site and methods employed to make the space feasible for agriculture. Taking example from Shri Bhabanath Sen’s initiative in breeding fish in waste water, which created a new landscape for eco-recycling wastewater and trash collection, Ghosh focused on the contemporary character of the site. Regarded as ‘vandals’, the marginal communities who make their livelihoods from salvaging waste are denied civic rights. His recent fieldwork detailed the political challenges and strategies employed by current trash-diggers and garbage farmers. 

Kolkata's eastern dharpa

Kolkata’s Eastern dhapa

Ghosh described the livestock rearing which took place in Dhapa. Both pigs and cows subsisted on the site and created an informal source of income for the community. The cows’ milk was excessively creamy and whilst not drunk by the owners, was sold to goalas (milk merchants). He posited that these communities and their livelihoods could be understood in terms of creating ‘positive ecological footprints’. 

Following apologies sent from Aditi Mukherjee (PhD scholar, Leiden Institute for Area Studies, Leiden University), the afternoon continued with Durgesh Solanki (M.Phil Scholar, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai), on ‘Cast(e)ing life: The Experience of Staying in a Caste Quarters’. From ethnographic research, Solanki presented the political and social complexities encountered by Bombay’s Meghwal community. Employed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) as conservancy workers, they were historically assigned segregated living quarters. The paper explored how this relationship was reinforcing caste hierarchy.  Through the uncertain provision of housing, Solanki argued that the state was maintaining Brahmanical notions of purity and pollution and furthering inequality. 

Sarover Zaidi (PhD Scholar, Max Planck Institute, Department of Religious Diversity) continued with an anthropological study, ‘Religious Moderns: architecture and selfhood in Bohra Shias of Bombay’. Her on-site research at Bhendi Bazaar charted the development of this modern architecture and perceptions of the area in relation to the heritage of the colonial city. Describing the organisation of this Shia community as a ‘strongly urbanised sect’, she argued that architecture was a formative part of this ‘self consciously cultivated’ statement.

Proposed plans, SBUT

Proposed plans, SBUP

Two current development projects; Saifee Burhanee Upliftment Plan and the Saifee Hospital reinforced this distinct identity. One of the biggest urban redevelopment plans undertaken in India, this initiative around the Rouza (mausoleum) envisions a site of highrises and sky scrapers alongside aspects of Fatimid architecture. Zaidi commented on the propagation of their isolation within Bombay and the moving registers of ‘religious modern’ rhetoric. The bricolage of styles, contingent upon sacred geography provided a medium from which to understand Bohra subjectivity. Zaidi concluded that these plans and her fieldwork established the complex relationship with modernity was built on a deep base of piety and intense sense of being Shia. 

Residential patterns and the envisioning of a global city were explored by Anushka Sen and Dalia Chakraborty (Departments of English and Sociology, Acropolis Project, Jadavpur University). “Live in New York in New Town”: Kolkata’s own Global City, focused on life-styles in the planned township, Rajarhat-Newtown in the Northeast of the city. Utilising advertising campaigns and a close reading of the text, a promise of ultra-urban and ultra-modern living was analysed. 

Key terms including leisure, security and convenience provided an entry point from which the hybridity of these aspirational sites could be read. Described as ‘unambiguously Continental or American or even Western’, the blurring of rhetorics by promoters and the researcher’s ethnographic work in the area established an elusive imagined model of real and hypothetical lives. 

Discussions of the papers questioned the nature of ‘global modernity’ and the qualities it embodied. ‘What was being aspired to?’ Professor Supriya Chaudhuri asked, and ‘what direction did it take?’A continuous projection forward was identified and a movement of terms was suggested as at once maintaining a distance and enclosing these communities. This was contextualised by the recent adoption of ‘curated boutique living’ in Kolkata. 

The conference concluded with readings of Kolkata through its representation in nineteenth century literature and the 20th century auteur cinema of Mrinal Sen. Abhishek Sarkar (Assistant Professor, Department of English, Jadavpur University) discussed early precepts about criminology using detective memoirs. ‘Crime and the City: Two Detective Officers in Nineteenth-Century Kolkata’, discussed the work of R. Reid (1887) and Priyanath Mukhopadhyay (1892) and depicted a trans-cultural complex of investigation and surveillance. 

Sen filming in Calcutta

Sen filming in Calcutta

Somak Mukherjee (E-QUAL Project RA and PhD Scholar, Jadavpur University) discussed Kolkata’s streets as spaces of multiplicity. ‘Infernal Encounters: Street and (Non)-Interpretation in Mrinal Sen’s Calcutta Quartet’ posited Sen as ‘the definitive chronicler’ of the city’s streets. Utilising clips and stills from ‘Interview’, Mukherjee stated that Sen captured the street as an ‘unobtrusive space of fluidity’ which defied locatedness. Framing the ‘street as the structure’ which was particularly pervasive in a city such as Calcutta, the paper emphasised Sen’s subversion of the street as a self enclosed totality. 

The gender dimensions of the street informed the ensuing discussion. The contemporary politics of the street were considered in terms of surveillance and its presence/non-presence in the Indian city. As an inherent component of the ‘global city’, its application warranted further investigation. 

The workshop was drawn to a close by Professor Supriya Chaudhuri who thanked all involved for their inputs and contributions to a stimulating workshop. She stated that the ETIC project will continue online and will be producing a source book. She welcomed contributions to the website and hoped that from the discussions and presentations new collaborations would form. 

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