What links a water privatization scheme and a prominent software company in India’s silicon city, Bangalore? Simanti Dasgupta’s new book, BITS of Belonging: Information Technology, Water, and Neoliberal Governance in India (Temple University Press, 2015), explores the way in which the corporate governance of IT is seen as a model for urban development in contemporary India. Through ethnographic research into both a water privatization scheme and the practices of an IT company, Dasgupta reveals the similarities that cross-cut both domains as new and old inequalities are produced. Rich in detail and fascinating in its analytical drive the book opens up new avenues for thinking about citizenship and belonging.
Roman Sieler’s Lethal Spots, Vital Secrets: Medicine and Martial Arts in South India (Oxford University Press, 2015) is a fine-grained ethnographic study of varmakkalai–the art of vital spots, a South Indian practice that encompasses both martial and medical activities. The interview explores how varmakkalai relates to the wider field of manual therapies and martial traditions in the subcontinent, the theories that inform the practice, the relationship between healing and fighting, as well as the role of secrets. A truly fascinating study that raises questions about topics such as categorisation, concealment and learning that go way beyond the confines of South India, Lethal Spots, Vital Secrets will be of interest to many.
The interview explores the ways in which land, labour and ritual combined in producing the Pariah and the affect Protestant missionaries had in reshaping Pariah-ness, as well as the role of the colonial state and changes in house site ownership among other issues. Amazingly rich in detail and theoretically dynamic throughout, the book is relevant to numerous discussions in present day India and beyond.
How is India’s burgeoning IT industry reshaping the country? What types of capital is IT attracting and what formations does it take? How are software engineers managed? What are their goals and aspirations? How are they perceived by their foreign clients? In her new book, Reengineering India: Work, Capital, and Class in an Offshore Economy (Oxford University Press, 2016), Carol Upadhya tackles these questions and many more. Based on extensive research in Bangalore – the large southern Indian metropolis that has led the IT buzz – the book explores the way capital, work and class are remade within the “new India.” Combining deep, rich and detailed accounts of life within “software factories” with a theoretical eclecticism and clear writing style, the book is a truly wonderful anthropological account of an offshore economy.
Carol Upadhya is Professor in the School of Social Sciences, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru, India.
Why is urbanisation so desired by so many people in India? How is this desire made, translated and why does it take the form it does? Such big questions of course have complex answers. One of the aspects that we know little about is the role played by the news media.
With this in mind it was with great pleasure that I spoke with Sahana Udupa for New Books in South Asian Studies a few days back about her amazing new book Making News in Global India: Media, Publics, Politics. A bi-lingual journalist turned anthropologist, she trained her ethnographic eye on the private news cultures of Bangalore, exploring, among other things, the ways a certain type of urban aspiration has come to characterise some news outlets and how they have come to shape urban transformation.
There’s much more to the book than questions of desire, and you can listen to the whole interview here and here:
The book was also a real inspiration for a new project I’ve been working on with Swetha Rao Dhananka – whom I met at the Indian Institute of Human Settlements – and who does fascinating work on both Bangalore’s slums and its peri-urban development.
Our research project – Urbanisation Advertised – analyses how the urban future is made (grand sounding, I know!). Using Karnataka’s 2016 Global Investors Meet as our point of departure, we’re looking into how advertising Karnataka for development places this particularly ‘business friendly’ state on an increasingly narrow yet endlessly promise-laden urban trajectory. Aside from participant observation at the investors meet (which was a lot of fun as most people thought of me as an investor) we’re undertaking a content analysis of promotional material and legal and policy documents. We hope we’ll be able to uncover the role advertising plays in facilitating the type of speculative urbanisation which India and other countries are currently experiencing.
(As an anthropologist) I’m drawn towards thinking about the material produced for Global Investors Meets as cultural artifacts — about what sort of messages they convey about cultures of desire, aspiration and urbanisation. We’re not quite sure where we’ll end up with all this material, but there’s certainly still a lot more we all need to understand about how the news media, promotional materials and other images and materials shape India’s urban transformation!
I really enjoyed speaking with Sanjay Srivastava the other day about his amazing new book Entangled Urbanism: Slum, Gated Community and Shopping Mall in Delhi and Gurgaon (Oxford University Press, 2015). It’s a really beautiful piece of urban anthropology, with such rich, fascinating and occasionally very sad stories from various people in different parts of the National Capital Region.
You can listen to the interview here or here:
Last week I was thrilled to speak with Loraine Kennedy about her brilliant book The Politics of Economic Restructuring in India: Economic Governance and State Spatial Rescaling.
At this year’s European Association of South Asian Studies in Zurich I was talking with another doctoral student who works on urban India, and we were saying to each other that someone needs to write a book that takes the ideas of state spacial rescaling as proposed by Neil Brenner and others and theorise it in the Indian context. Thankfully Loraine Kennedy had the same idea and I came across this book a couple of weeks later. I think it’ll be of great interest to anyone working on cities in contemporary India.
You can listen here and here:
I had the pleasure of speaking with Ayona Datta about her wonderful book The Illegal City: Space, Law and Gender in a Delhi Squatter Settlement for New Books in South Asian Studies.
You can listen here or here:
I had a complete nightmare with the mic, and my voice sounds like a chipmunk (I use ubuntu as my OS, skype hates FOSS, and the latest update seemed to mess with how it reads the frequency. Nevertheless Ayona is wonderfully eloquent and makes up for my squeaky voice!
Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking with Barbara Harriss-White about her new co-authored book Dalits and Adivasis in India’s Business Economy: Three Essays and an Atlas, published by Three Essay Collective.
The book explores the ways in which economic liberalisation interacts with caste, specifically in reference to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and was written along with Elisabetta Basile, Anita Dixit, Pinaki Joddar, Aseem Prakash and Kaushal Vidyarthee.
All parts of the book touch on urban issues – with the second essay dealing explicitly with a small town in Tamil Nadu.
If’ you’re interested, then you can listen to the interview here!