Small Cities in India

What makes a small city small? What about a small city in the global South? Why is urban studies obsessed with big cities in the global North for its theorising? What can we learn from looking at a small city in India?

In the article Sizing the city: Lack, intimacy and niche positioning in Mangaluru, India published by City: Analysis of Urban Change, Theory, Action in Volume 22, 2018 – Issue 5-6 I argue the following:

We need to retheorise urbanism from the perspective of smaller, post-colonial cities in the global South to account for both relational size on a global scale and localised city-specific contexts. Cities like Mangaluru, in south India, cannot be solely understood as mere variations within universal processes, especially when these processes are theorised through big cities in the global North. They must also be explored through detailed analyses that, whilst attuned to global processes, recognise historical and contextual particularities as key for understanding city-specific urbanisms. However, because inhabitants and state officials often frame smaller cities as mere variations—and often as inferior variations—of large ‘Western’ cities, we must interrogate how such universal, global North centred thinking informs the urbanism of such places. Taking a relational and relative understanding of smallness, the article conceptualises Mangaluru as a ‘smaller’ as opposed to just a ‘small’ city. Building on this, it is argued that smaller post-colonial cities in the global South are characterised by 1) niche positioning; 2) a feeling of relative lack; and 3) the dense intimacy of relationships. Furthermore, through an analysis of Mangaluru’s most common framings—as a port, as an education hub, and as a city of vigilante attacks—it shows how these dominant characterisations are exceeded and reworked amidst the unpredictability and flux of urban change.

Read the open access article here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13604813.2018.1549836

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