[URBANTH-L] The PUKAR Winter Institute. Theme: Urban Knowledge, Language and the Research Process

Angela Jancius acjancius at ysu.edu
Mon Nov 1 14:59:33 EST 2004

From: PUKAR <pukar at pukar.org.in>

Dear Friends,

The PUKAR Winter Institute 2005 will be held between the 6th and the
9th of January 2005 in Mumbai. If you would like to attend, do get back
to us with information about yourself (as per the framework provided
below) by the 10th of November 2004. Those who have applied earlier
need not apply again.


The PUKAR Winter Institute
January 6 - 9, 2005

Theme: Urban Knowledge, Language and the Research Process

The PUKAR Winter Institute is envisioned as the second in a series of
three such annual Institutes, designed as opportunities to bring
together research scholars from various Mumbai based research centers
(across disciplines and sectors) to engage in a dialogue with local,
national and internationally based researchers, academics and

This year as well, the institute will have three broad thematic foci:

I. Locating Urban Knowledge
II. Action and Engagement
III. Institutions, Forms and Assemblages of Production

Last year we interrogated the idea and practice of Urban Knowledge
through the above thematic framework scrutinizing it in terms of
inherent conceptual biases and the complexities arising out of public
and institutional involvement in producing knowledge.

This year we take the interrogation further, spiking it with the
question of Language.

The city, in a Weberian sense is almost always socially and culturally
diverse, allowing for easy readings of urban spaces, even
pre-industrial ones, as approximating some cosmopolitan ideal. For a
contemporary megalopolis like Mumbai, it is particularly effortless to
subscribe to such an ideal, especially if one uses broad brushstrokes
of cultural and economic differences.

However if one looks carefully enough, especially through the prism of
language, one sees how these diversities are often locked in distinct
histories that inter-face with each other in very particular ways.
Often, they get hierarchically arranged due to the influence of factors
such as bureaucratic controls, specific institutional responses, street
activism and media spurred creativity.

What emerges is a city divided as much as it is confident of fulfilling
all criteria of being cosmopolitan.

The PUKAR Winter Institute 2005 aims at understanding this process and
debating its political ramifications.

We invite scholars and practitioners interested in the theme to attend
the institute and participate in the discussions. These discussions,
while not always being situated in the Mumbai context, may well turn
out to be Mumbai specific, since most of the Winter Institute
participants will be based in post-graduate research centers or be
professional practitioners based in Mumbai.

Selected participants who choose to present papers can do so in
languages other than English. We plan to have multi-lingual panel
discussions as well. Presenting papers is however not obligatory to
attend the Institute.

Some of the broad themes that will structure the Institute include:

· Conceiving Urban Knowledge through the lens of Linguistic Diversity
· The City as constructed through Multi-Lingual Experiences
· Language, Institutions, Bureaucracies and the Media
· Urban Politics and Language

A detailed schedule of all the panels and list of speakers will be
circulated two months before the Institute. The Institute will be
spread over four days with the first three devoted to panel discussions
and the fourth to presentations by participants and invitees.
Participants will have to make their own arrangements for travel to the
venue (South Mumbai) and outstation participants will have to make
their own arrangements for staying in the city.

All those interested can send an e-mail to pukar at pukar.org.in with the
following details before the 10th of November 2004.

1. Name
2. Institute
3. Qualifications
4. A brief note (200 words) on why you would like to participate
5. A sample of any past work that is linked to your interest in urban

A registration fee of Rs. 500/- will be charged.

Material that cannot be sent via e-mail can be posted at the address
provided below.

Contact Details::
E-mail: pukar at pukar.org.in
Post: PUKAR, 1-4, 2nd Floor, Kamanwala Chambers, Sir P.M. Road, Fort,
Mumbai 400 001
Tel: +91 (022) 5574 8152
Mobile: +91 (0) 98204 04010

Detailed Note on Our Thematic Concerns.

I. Locating Urban Knowledge - "Urban knowledge" is understood as a
conceptual space that reclaims - for globalizing cities such as Mumbai
- a central role in the various economic, political and cultural
debates that take place at local, national and global scales.  It is an
acknowledgement of the fact that cities are emerging as autonomous
actors, interacting with each other on the stage of the world while
continuing to be located in the 'envelope' of the nation-state as the
principle alibi or fiction for the production of social knowledge and
for the provision of frames for development.  The notion of 'urban
knowledge' rejects the tendency that marginalizes knowledge about, of
and from the city in favor of supposedly more 'authentic' and
'indigenous' starting points of traditional (and erroneously understood
as necessarily rural India).  Urbanism - the setting into motion of
programs of urban development - is a vital driver of social and
material contexts in the contemporary world, even as the rural
continues to be "virtualized" by the marketing of its basic
features.  However, by urban knowledge, we do not mean to simply create
a mechanically reverse narrative that tends to monopolize all terrain
of contemporary and future identities as 'urban'.  On the contrary, the
idea of interrogating 'urban knowledge' is motivated by a deeper
understanding of the politics of knowledge that ultimately yields a
conceptual space out of questioning the classification of spaces as
rural, urban or suburban (to use only three of many such ideal types).

II. Action and Engagement - Communities of 'practice' continue to be
located at an angle to the questions and practices of 'knowledge' and
especially 'research.'  Yet, whether it is an encounter with a licensed
medical practitioner or with a state bureaucrat for a legal document or
with a real-estate developer over land-use/mis-use or with financial
institutions seeking to abstract and quantify their resources, poor and
marginal communities as well as other groups seeking rights are
constantly confronted with questions of knowledge - of their own
knowledge and others' knowledge of them.  These issues are intimately
tied up with 'claim-making' and perhaps with mundane temporalities that
cannot take the time to pause even as these claims are constantly
monitored and evaluated.  Our focus on 'action and engagement' seeks to
show that the consequences of critical interrogation are manifold.  For
example, when used as a critical lens, the conceptual space opened up
by 'urban knowledge' might open a new way of understanding the huge
migrations into the city as representing a new urban-rural nexus that
can provide for creative alternatives to the more rigid ideas of
"belonging" to regions.  Similarly, it can also help us to re-define
notions of industrial and manufacturing space by viewing the slum's
innovative spatial re-arrangements to accommodate the informal sector
as a practical plan for the city of the future.  This notion of "urban
knowledge," in other words, might help us to interrogate the conceptual
distinctions between 'knowledge', 'action' and 'engagement' both by
allowing us to retune our own concepts as well as by allowing us to
engage with the knowledge embedded in communities of practice.

III. Institutions, Forms and Assemblages of Knowledge Production - As
we think about research in the present, we are confronted by an
extraordinary proliferation in the landscape of institutions - both
formal and informal - seeking to train, certify and propagate at every
level and scale and in every sector of knowledge and economy.  We
attempt to locate ourselves within this prolific and oftentimes
bewildering landscape of institutions of every form, shape and focus
which bring a multiplicity of actors into the arena of 'training',
including not only the state but also private companies, for-profit
institutions and NGOs.  What happens to the 'universality' embedded in
the notion of the 'university' under these circumstances?  What happens
to ideas of prestige associated with certain forms of knowledge and
more specifically, what happens to notions of prestige associated with
'objective', scientific knowledge?  The notion of 'urban knowledge' as
a conceptual frame can bring into focus both this assumed attachment to
certain institutional forms and assemblages of knowledge production on
the one hand as well as help us grasp the more pernicious effects of
the popularization and to some even the 'democratization' of
knowledge-making represented by the proliferation of new institutional
forms.  'Univer-city' might serve as a way of thinking the city as a
profoundly cosmopolitan space.

Warm regards,
The PUKAR team

PUKAR (Partners for Urban Knowledge Action and Research)

Address:: 1-4, 2nd Floor, Kamanwala Chambers, Sir P. M. Road, Fort,
Mumbai 400 001
Telephone:: +91 (022) 5574 8152 / +91 (0) 98204 04010
Email:: pukar at pukar.org.in
Website:: www.pukar.org.in

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