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Metrolog(ue)

METROLG(UE)

JOINTLY ORGANISED BY CRIT, MUMBAI AND SARAI, DELHI

In recent years, there have been numerous attempts to understand and grapple with the transformation of contemporary urban spaces and environments across India. It is now widely recognised across spheres as diverse as academic social science, urban planning and architecture, social work and activism, and the arts and cultural industries that there has been a conceptual vacuum in understanding the city in India since Independence. The estrangement of both urban scholars and practitioners from their object of understanding remains acute. Recently, both inside and outside institutions, new practices grouped as “urban research” or “emerging urbanism” have renewed the call for new methodological inquiries and collaborative frameworks to understand the changing conditions and landscapes of urban India. The primary sites for this emerging urbanism have been both the urban spaces and built environments in which projects, experiments and interventions have been undertaken, as well as the discursive and conceptual spaces in which new ideas and theories are still being discussed and worked out.

For the past several years, members of CRIT have been involved in intensive field studies of inner-city neighbourhoods, industrial landscapes, suburban and peripheral communities, informal settlements, and new enterprises and organisations in contemporary Mumbai. Our varied studies have brought to light, at various levels, the conceptual vacuum in understanding the practices through which the city is inhabited. Most studies of cities in India have either been narrowly empirical, with a bias towards problem-solving, or they have been overly generalised into universal categories of “colonial”, “industrial” or “global” cities (with “pre-” or “post-” affixed as appropriate). Descriptions of Mumbai display astonishing numbers and statistics to represent urban conditions as “crises” requiring urgent intervention — the problem of housing, the crisis of over congestion, the collapse of infrastructure, etc. These sensational use of numbers to describe complex conditions has been reflected in the abstract use of unitary concepts by academics such as “functional urban region”, “mosaic of culture”, “melting pot of communities”, “metaphor of modernity”, “network of interest”, “contested terrain”, “native metropolis”, and “global city”.

While these concepts are inadequate for representing contemporary conditions, they become dangerous when formulated as “world class city”, “Slumbay”, “encroached public spaces”, “deteriorating environment”, “make Mumbai Shanghai”, “mee Mumbaikar” etc. Such concepts guide interventions which respond to generalised conditions, repressing varied ways of understanding and inhabiting the urban environment. Further, these empiricisms and generalisations fall flat in complex conditions of multiple tenancies, interstitial spaces, mixed land uses, informal and illegal commerce, and the tactical negotiations of the street, which characterise the contemporary Indian metropolis. In these urban conditions, Systems, Organisations, and Space are rendered amorphous, and accounts of the global city that assimilate historical difference into a universal narrative, are disrupted. We require a fresh theoretical language to analyse and critique the concepts, practices and formations of the emerging urbanism in India.

This workshop is organised to initiate a discussion on the emerging urban conditions in Mumbai. Based on CRITs earlier works in Mumbai and the research interests of its members, the following areas are articulated for discussions:

1.      Emerging Morphologies

In the nineties we have seen a completely new and unprecedented urban landscape emerging. A product of the new economy, the new morphologies and city forms emerge in the landscapes of call centres, luxury townships, corporate parks, slum rehabilitation sites, special economic zones (SEZs), and mega-infrastructure sites. In the globalised economy, these processes of urbanisation include mega-city formation and mega-infrastructure drives, deindustrialisation and informalisation of labour, integration of financial and information networks, widespread transformation of land uses and reorganistion of land markets. New morphologies are further manifested through micro-processes, ranging from new forms of land assembly to new occupancy patterns, and formal architectural responses that are generative of new morphologies. The discussion will undertake a survey of the emergent morphologies of the new economy and their processes of generation and proliferation.

2.      Politics of Occupancy

Large metropolitan environments generate complex practices through which space is claimed and appropriated by their inhabitants. The failure of most urban economies in the former Third World to absorb migrants into formal market structures has generated severe gaps in the demand and supply of spaces for work and living. In turn, popular and tactical ways of occupying space have challenged formal regimes of property, creating new forms of occupation and complex social relations of ownership. These forms cannot be understood in the conventional language of property and ownership, and come in direct conflict with linear visions of modernisation and development, which refuse to recognise them as legitimate. The disbanding and demolition of “informal settlements” in the name of urban renewal is paralleled in our cognitive failure to understand the new configurations of occupation which the majority of urban populations inhabit. The discussion will attempt to map various forms of occupancy that slip out of the mainstream understandings of habitat, and will document attempts to claim space by various communities, when faced with violent displacement.

3.      Organisations of Civil Society

Many of today’s “NGOs” emerged in the 70s and 80s after the upsurge of the social movements protesting Emergency. Through the 80s and 90s, with the decline of the organised Left and trade unions, the urban NGO sector came into its own with diverse non-party organisations and coalitions undertaking research, training, and social work on housing rights, environmental protection, combating communalism, and other issue-based agendas. The 90s witnessed the further proliferation of NGOs amongst assertive urban middle classes seeking to reassert their local authority over neighbourhood spaces, civic agencies, and urban infrastructure in the name of the “public”. More recently, new coalitions have been formed between the previously estranged organisations representing the urban poor and the middle classes, in the context of litigation on public spaces, urban renewal, and environmental protection, as well as the corporate vision of making Mumbai a “world class city” by sweeping reforms of planning and governance.

What is an NGO, and how do we understand their role in urban politics? The celebratory rhetoric of “civil society” flattens the complexity in understanding these organisations, which have on the one hand evolved into private agencies that speak in the name of the public, and on the other hand become unrepresentative appendages of the state in the name of “participation” and “empowerment”. The discussion will undertake mapping of “civil society” organisations, the networks and links between them.

 4.      Urban Peripheries

In thinking about the fringe conditions of cities, the dominant conceptualizations remain in the centre-periphery binary. The state planners treat these fringes either as dormitories/backyards or opportunities for new economic generators for the centre. In these imaginations, the cultural conditions of the fringes including patterns of living, working and consuming are considered peripheral to the central city’s cultural conditions. Policies/Plans that get drawn talk about new economic/social conditions. Mainstream conceptualisations and subsequent interventions result in upheavals amongst residing groups. Here again the binary is operative where the city is seen as an opportunistic encroacher, eating up the resources of the fringes. Over the past years, as CRIT has been working on the fringes of Mumbai, new questions have surfaced: For whom is the backyard/economic generator planned when these places have become areas of private speculation? What is the local cultural condition when aspirations of consumption amongst the people of the fringes are similar to those in the centre? Which groups exactly qualify as the local community in a situation where daily more houses are being built and more families move into these areas? Is it a part of the same city? Is it a different area? Is it opportunistic to think about the region? How is the region conceptualized?

5.      New Entrepreneurship

By now we are familiar with the grand narratives of transition through which the new urban economy made sense – liberalisation, deindustrialisation, informalisation, decentralisation and commodification. However these narratives remain inadequate to conceptualise the forms and patterns of enterprise, and the processes of transition in this dynamic, complex new economy. Similarly, concepts such as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) attempt to address the scale of these new activities, while treating their forms as statistical abstractions. New entrepreneurship has been a subject of recent ethnographic inquires by members of CRIT. The people and enterprises that comprise this new field of urban entrepreneurship include: organising material and labour and providing the cheapest bid for production; creating demand and selling; facilitating resources and managing crises; and brokering knowledge and skills. This area of research will explore questions of the new economy and entrepreneurship through tracing new networks and strategies of trade, production and consumption.

6.      Archiving Practices

The discussion will explore the emerging fields of digital archiving, publishing and mapping, and the use of these new tools in urban research. The widespread dissemination of networked media and information technologies has posed serious questions around organisation and practice of research, which for generations have been sponsored by large centralised structures, such as academic institutions and state bureaucracies. These institutions are now confronted with discursive spaces such as mailing lists, blogs and wikis, and other networked forms of publishing by freelance writers and self-taught scholars interacting online. While previously isolated communities of independent researchers have become increasingly connected, the digitisation of previously inaccessible archives, libraries, and collections promises to further lower the barriers to online pedagogy and collaborative research outside of formal institutions. While the crisis posed to disciplinary hierarchies by open source models of mapping, publishing and archiving is apparent, we are still articulating the institutional forms appropriate to the new research practices and communities forming today. These forms include the structures of collaboration in the era of large distributed databases; the connection between navigation and management of archives with new techniques of online pedagogy and self-education; and the role of research groups and institutions in sharing and exchanging data.

The workshop will engage in discussions on the nuances and of urban conditions hoping to open up the mechanics of how the city works. It will involve a set of field visits on the first day and discussions on the second and the third. Each of the above six areas will be a session There will be a seventh session called ‘City and Culture’. This session is planned to summarise the workshop and formulate newer conceptualisations and practices.

P R O G R A M M E:  FIELD VISITS

All visits will start from Hotel Golden Manor, Opposite Juhu Bus Depot, Juhu at 08.30 am

27th December 2006

Four simultaneous field trips are organised with an aim to study transformations in the city, which began emerging in the nineties, but have shown substantial intensification since 2000.

1. New Geographies

The tour includes visits to new residential townships; new landscapes of malls, call centres and multiplexes; new mega infrastructure projects; sites of rehabilitation for people affected by large infrastructure projects; and old industrial lands that are either transforming or at the verge of getting transformed. The city has witnessed these developments on lands that have been either environmentally sensitive areas or city outskirts, or industrial lands earlier or large informal settlements. The visit will give an idea on broad patterns of transformations emerging in the city.

(Route: Juhu – Malad Mind Space – Hiranandani Complex – Mankurd Rehabilitation Site – Wasi Naka Rehabilitation Site – Eastern Water Fronts – Pheonix Mills – Juhu)

2. Urban Fringe Conditions

The tour includes visits to sites of intense developments along the city edges that are subject to administrative ambiguities; sites that have recently undergone transformations on account of infrastructure being shifted to these locations; sites that are on the verge of being developed through large corporate investments and strategies like the SEZ; and some local economies like the textile industry. The visit will also include meeting a local group of activists and give an idea on broad patterns of transformations along the periphery of the city.

(Route: Juhu – Mira Road – Kaman Village – Bhivandi – Airoli – Mulund Check Naka – Juhu)

3. Inner City Areas

The tour includes visits to old market areas of the city with dense fabric of chawls and wadis that are recently transforming into highrise apartment buildings. It also includes visit to colonies of older industrial labour and sites where CRIT has initiated activities of self-development. The tour will include meeting with members of the Tenant’s Federation.

(Route: Juhu – Null Bazaar – Mill Lands – Tenant’s federation – Jijamata Nagar – Juhu)

4. Enterprise in the City 

The tour includes visits to three industrial clusters within Dharavi – the plastic recycling industry, the leather industry and the clay industry. These are old industries that presently at a risk of getting completely wiped out with the Dharavi cleaning drive of the state government. The visits will also include visits to spaces of work of three entrepreneurs – maintainer of a public toilet, workshop of jari work exporter and workshop of designer garments for Bollywood.

(Route: Juhu – Dharavi – Bainganwadi, Govandi – Gudu Bhai’s workshop, Govandi – Raju Bhai’s workshop, Santacruz – Juhu)

P R O G R A M M E: DISCUSSIONS

Venue: Conference Room, All India Inst. for Local Self Government, Juhu Gulli, Andheri (W), Mumbai 58

 28th December 2006

   
09.30 – 09.45 Tea
09.30 – 10.15 Introductions and WelcomePrasad Shetty, Rupali Gupte and Ravi Sundaram
10.15 – 12.30(Tea: 10.45 – 11.00) SESSION 1: EMERGING MORPHOLOGIESJeebesh Bagchi (Moderator and Speaker), Rupali Gupte, Nilesh Rajadhyaksha, Rohan Shivkumar, Chitra Venkatramani and Sandeep Pendse
12.30 – 13.30 Lunch
13.30 – 15.30 SESSION 2: POLITICS OF OCCUPANCYMeena Menon (Moderator and Chair), Aditya Potluri, Saurabh Vaidya, Prasad Khanolkar, Chandrashekhar Prabhu, Amita Bhide and Solomon Benjamin
15.30 – 16.00 Tea
16.00 – 18.00 SESSION 3: NEW CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONSAsha Ghosh (Moderator and Chair), Zainabh Bawa, Benita Menezes, Ateya Khorakiwala and Lalita Kamath

 

29th December 2006

   
09.00 – 09.30 Tea
09.30 – 11.15 SESSION 4: URBAN PERIPHERIESAwadhendra Sharan (Moderator and Speaker), Anirudh Paul, Rohit Mujumdar, Prajna Rao, Makrand Salunke and Sudhir Pathwardhan
11.15 – 11.45 Tea
11.30 – 13.15  SESSION 5: NEW ENTREPRENEURSHIP Ravi Sundaram (Moderator and Speaker), Prasad Shetty, Tamal Mitra and Ananth S.
13.15 – 14.15 Lunch
14.15 – 16.00 SESSION 6: ARCHIVING PRACTICEST. Nagarjuna (Moderator and Chair), Shekhar Krishnan, Swapnil Hazare, John D’Souza, Schuyler Erle and Ashish Rajadhyaksha
16.00 – 16.15 Tea
16.15 – 17.45 SESSION 7: CITY AND CULTUREGeorge Jose (Moderator and Speaker), Gyan Prakash, Ranjani Mazumdar, Kausik Mukhopadhyay
   
17.45 – 18.15 Concluding RemarksAnirudh Paul and Awadhendra Sharan
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