CfP Cities of the forking paths: intercommunal (dis)harmony and the rhythms of everyday life

CfP: Cities of the forking paths: intercommunal (dis)harmony and the rhythms of everyday life

SIEF2015, Zagreb, 21-25 June 2015

Global cities are variously represented as utopian multiethnic, interreligious celebrations of cosmopolitan difference, or conversely as dark hives of ethnic and class conflict. Against this split narrative, smaller cities that exhibit ethnic or religious tensions are often portrayed as lacking, provincial or backwards. In light of recent developments — including the supposed demise of multiculturalism in Europe’s cities, the rise of urban Hindu nationalism in India and a surge of violence in towns across the Middle East — we seek to complicate narratives of communal disharmony with a specific focus on those semi-peripheral smaller cities that are often overlooked by urban scholars.

Thinking through these ideas rhythmically (temporally and spatially) allows ethnographers and historians to explore the everyday realities of how community is performed and circulated in smaller cities. It is our contention that inhabitants of plural cities exhibit creative marginality in the face of contrived coexistence, that the heteronomous spaces and times of cities produce contradictory logics that undermine ethnonationalist state goals, and that the mundane cycles of everyday life can destabilise seemingly hegemonic projects.

We welcome contributions from a range of geographic settings, historical periods and methodological approaches that address the problem of alterity and its discontents in unsettled urban times and spaces.

Ian M. Cook (Central European University) & Daniel Monterescu (Central European University)

Deadline January 14th 2015

Propose a paper here:
http://nomadit.co.uk/sief/sief2015/panels.php5?PanelID=3507

Informal questions or queries to panel conveners:
Ian Cook cook_ian@ceu-budapest.edu
Daniel Monterescu monterescud@ceu.hu

Podcast: The Illegal City by Ayona Datta

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!

Podcast: Dalits and Adivasis in India’s Business Economy by Barbara Harriss-White

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!

Planning the Smaller Indian City

Smaller cities in India should, but more often than not do not, follow the same planning processes as larger cities. This is explored in an interesting piece on smaller Indian cities and planning over on The City Fix by Rejeet Mathews and Tintu Sebastian – Must a city of 8 thousand follow the same planning processes as one of 8 million?

Decentralised powers granted by the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts, central guidelines issued by Ministry of Urban Development and weak Town and Country Planning Acts at the state-level, intermingle to create a legal framework that requires cities of all size to follow similar planning processes in regards to the production of master plans.

The authors argue that smaller cities should not have the same planning requirements/demands as larger cities.

Small towns should not be treated as scaled-down cities, and this blanket approach is an obstacle to effective urban planning. ‘Rightsizing’ can alleviate this by recognizing these important differences in size and complexity in policy, enabling more effective urban planning processes

I’m really happy to see an article on smaller urban centres – there’s not enough attention paid to smaller cities in India. However, I would add that size is relational (not only based on numbers) and smaller cities might have greater (or lesser) local importance than their size suggests. Mangalore, the city I know best, has one of the county’s busiest ports, an international airport, large SEZs and a slew of education and medical institutions. But it’s official size (population just under half a million) means it appears as a ‘small city’ in state and central planners eyes.

The authors discuss the problem of size in relation to Karnataka state and produce a wonderful visualization of the differently-sized cities that fall under the same planning mandate (see below). I’ve been into district planning offices and seen the plans for some of the urban centres featured – the plans for some of the smaller towns were tucked away in a cupboard and the local officials had no role in their creation (outsourcing the job to a private company who had the required town planning training). However, I think the problems of smaller city planning go further than lack of technical training or human resources.

The reliance on outside help can lead to town/city plans produced by those with strong vested interests their contents. This is certainly the case in Mangalore, where locals complained that the latest master plan was written by (and for) powerful real estate developers who were close to (or even were) politicians.

Graphic by Rejeet Mathews and Tintu Sebastian/EMBARQ India

As way of a solution Mathews and Sebastian suggest a tentative framework for planning different sized cites.

Large urban centres: that have more than 8 million people and contribute significantly to the state and national GDP – like Bangalore – should be accorded a special status. They should follow a richer planning process and be required to prepare connected and complementary spatial, economic, and transport plans that better suit the city’s needs, complexities, and aspirations.

Medium urban centers: The complexity of planning processes should be proportionate to the city government’s ability to pay for itself without relying on financial bailouts from centralized agencies. Medium-sized cities should follow a lighter planning process that is more responsive to both dynamism and decline, instead of being forced into a planning overdose.

Small urban centers: Small cities and towns that do not face the complexities of larger and mid-sized cities should focus on the provision of basic infrastructure and amenities to improve quality of life and foster a good trade and business environment. These would be more achievable within the resources and capacity that these towns already have.

Although I can see the case for differentiated planning processes, the schemata they suggest reveals some underlying assumptions about the current role and future plans of cities.

Aside from the problems of using numerical size as a frame,  I think it’s dangerous to tie anything to a “city government’s ability to pay”.  This affords preferential treatment to the more successful (often larger) cities. Decentralisation of power has taken place alongside increased inter-urban competition. In this context, the demands for poorer, smaller cities to raise their own resources naturally leads to increased uneven development. I think the central state can play an important role in evening out the unevenness.

India’s smaller cities, as the authors argue, do not need to be over-burdened by planning requirements, but likewise they should not be left to fend for themselves.

Read their full article here

Podcast: Sacred Modernity by Tariq Jazeel

Here’s k the interview I made with Tariq Jazeel about his brilliant book Sacred Modernity: Nature, Environment, and the Postcolonial Geographies of Sri Lankan Nationhood  for a podcast over at New Books in South Asian Studies.

The podcast is available here!I’m posting it on this site as I think his discussion on the architectural style  ‘tropical modernism’ will be of a lot of interest to many who are interested on urban issues in the region.

Enjoy!

Podcast: Prostitution and the Ends of Empire by Stephen Legg

I interviewed Steven Legg about his awesome new book Prostitution and the Ends of Empire: Scale, Governmentalities, and Interwar India for a podcast over at New Books in South Asian Studies.

You can find the interview here!

The book will be of a lot of interest to urbanists, especially those who work on the colonial period.

about

Hi there!

Thanks for arriving to this website. I set it up to bring together all the different strands of research, papers, podcasts, videos and photos I’ve done over the last decade or so and will do in the future.

I’m now a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Media Data and Society, located within the School of Public Policy at the Central European University (CEU). I’m very lucky to be working within the amazingly exciting project – Sound Relations: Transgressions, Disruptions, Transformations. The project will have teaching, researching and outputs all related to sound.

Before this I completed a doctorate in Sociology and Social Anthropology (CEU, 2016). You can read the dissertation here.

Broadly I have an interest in time and space, South Asian studies, visual anthropology and urban studies – the writing, videos, photos and podcasts found here all reflect this. Nearly always they deal with Mangaluru (India) and Budapest (Hungary), my two homes and/or research sites.

I’m fascinated by research questions relating to urbanisation, morality, rhythm, informal economies, modes of learning, housing, land use, development, migration, infrastructure and intercommunity relationships.

Before I became a father I looked like this:

Me!

Please feel to free to get in touch, comment or follow me via the various social links dotted around this site.