[URBANTH-L] Call for Papers: Interrogating Urbanism in Contemporary South Asia

Renu Desai renu.ahmd at gmail.com
Mon Aug 13 18:56:21 EDT 2007


February 14, 2008
University of California, Berkeley (exact location to be announced)
Sponsored by the Center for South Asia Studies, University of California,


The history of cities has long favored the West as the center of
urbanization, thus casting the cities of the Global South in the rhetoric of
delayed development and borrowed modernities. Indeed, the postcolonial
condition of South Asian cities has been continually rendered as the shadow
of former colonial cities struggling to cope with inefficiencies of the
postcolonial state in managing urbanization and more recently with pressures
of globalization and transnational forces. In order to move beyond a
dialogue which frames the cities of the developing world as derivative of a
Euro-Ameri-centric core we propose an interrogation of South Asian cities
through the theoretical lens of citizenship.

The evolving definition of citizenship—originally a product of the urban
enclave (as in the medieval bastide or the polis) to a right defined by a
larger national political community—is being recalibrated once again as
cities around the world become the salient units of economic and political
change. The notion of republican citizenship, as premised on an idea of
universal liberalism, has most strenuously been challenged in the urban
sphere, be it through the ghettoization of minorities or the growing
enclaves of the wealthy. At the same time, diverse initiatives and
grassroots mobilizations have emerged to counter old and new urban
inequalities and spatial exclusions. Although the re-scripting of urban
space in cities across the world is thus producing new notions of
citizenship, both restrictive and expansive, the modalities through which
these are produced remain contingent upon historical and geographical

South Asian cities have recently come center-stage through innovative
explorations in fiction, photography, and documentary film. This one-day
symposium will provide a forum for cross-disciplinary dialogue which brings
these perspectives from the humanities in conversation with those in the
social sciences in order to investigate the urban realm. We encourage
submissions that deal with cities in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri
Lanka as a means to expand the discussion of South Asian urbanism beyond the
case-study of India.

We invite papers that speak to the issues outlined in the following three

I. Propertied Citizenship and Landscapes of Consumption
Following market liberalization, South Asian cities have witnessed a rapid
integration into global consumer markets and commodity networks, fostering
new and more aggressive consumption practices. With the re-ordering of urban
space in a global economic context in which cities compete for capital,
jobs, and tourists, property has also become an increasingly significant
register through which elite groups pressure the state to "clean up" cities
in order to privilege their own needs and sensibilities. These shifts are
reflected in new urban phenomena such as the mushrooming of shopping malls
and gated communities and the proliferation of technology parks. We invite
papers which focus on the city as a nexus of global networks, local vectors
of management and reform, and consumption

II. Recalibrating Urban Governmentality
Following neo-liberal reforms in recent decades, South Asian cities have
played a crucial role in the rescaling of the state and the decentralization
of government apparatuses. For example, the pressures of globalization on
labor coupled with efforts to ensure a city's position in the new global
economy has led to the creation of extra-governmental spaces of production,
such as Special Economic Zones. The rise of civil-society movements and
non-governmental organizations has also led to a significant recalibration
of urban governmentality. Notwithstanding these new modalities of
governmentality which involve a constellation of non-state actors, the right
to land and resources made by an individual or community continues to engage
the state and political actors at various scales, often mobilizing informal
practices such as squatting and land-grabbing which involve highly
politicized negotiations. We invite papers that examine the role of the
state in the contemporary urban realm and that speak to various agents and
processes that challenge the managerial sovereignty of the state therein.

III. Re-scripting Identity through Urban Space
The diversity within South Asian societies, the historical legacies of
colonialism, and most recently the processes of globalization have
continually brought forth challenges to the modern nation-state and
democracy in the region. Many of these challenges are articulated and played
out in the urban arena, through an assemblage of spatial practices. For
example, the occupation of the city through religious processions, the
construction of violent spatial imaginaries that pit religious groups
against each other, and the redefinition of the urban subject through
hegemonic constructions of masculinity or femininity, appropriate the city
as a site of contestation over the nation and the state. We invite papers
that focus on the re-scripting of ethnic, racial, class, and gendered
identities in/through urban space and which explore this through different
media such as art, film, literature, performance and so forth.

Paper abstracts will be accepted by e-mail at
southasiancities at gmail.com<https://calmail.berkeley.edu/webmail/src/compose.php?send_to=southasiancities%40gmail.com>
September 15, 2007. Abstracts should be 400-500 words in length and authors
should attach the abstract as a Word document as well as include the text of
the abstract in the body of the message. Please be sure to include the
following information in the e-mail as well: Full name, departmental
affiliation, and the title of your abstract. Accepted authors will receive
e-mail notification no later than October 15, 2007.  Accepted authors will
be expected to submit a draft working paper by January 10, 2008.

For additional information, please contact the symposium coordinators:
Romola Sanyal (
romi_s at berkeley.edu<https://calmail.berkeley.edu/webmail/src/compose.php?send_to=romi_s%40berkeley.edu>)
or Renu Desai (renu_d at berkeley.edu

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