Urban Societies

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSLS2HS3078

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon Semester

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr. Shailaja Menon

Email of course coordinator: shailaja[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: Only for 4th semester MA students

Aim: To enable students to develop critical reading and writing skills. To help students engage with sources

Course Outcomes: At the end of the course, students will be able:

  1. To deal with primary sources like gazetteers, census reports, other textual documents and narratives
  2. To critically engage with new archives like audio-visual sources
  3. To critique policy frameworks

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Cities and urban areas have set the foundation of modern civilisation – they have proved to be the engines of economic growth, and the centres of innovation, culture, knowledge and political power. Cities are known to be places where money, services and wealth are centralized. Cities are where fortunes are made and where social mobility is possible. Businesses, which generate jobs and capital, are usually located in urban areas. Whether the source is trade or tourism, it is also through the cities that foreign money flows into a country. Due to their high populations, urban areas can also have much more diverse social communities allowing others to find people like them when they might not be able to in rural areas.

Despite the fact that India has engaged in far-sighted economic planning since Independence, and despite the considerable success of the Five Year Plans, remarkably little constructive attention has been paid to the spatial aspects of social and economic change. There is no difficulty in securing agreement that the social and physical conditions of Indian cities today are bad, from almost any standpoint, and that they are deteriorating. Many Indian urban dwellers are without employment, many more are literally homeless (they sleep on the streets)--and yet, year by year, each of the major cities becomes measurably larger, and the relative size of the rural population falls a little more.

The forces of globalization have further sharpened the internal dissensions of the cityscape. Within the globalising cities a new geography of centrality and marginality shows up. Essentially the metropolitan space under globalisation tends to become a contradictory space, characterised by contestation and internal differentiation. This gives rise to a metropolitan dilemma that gets intertwined with the politics of urban space and built environment. The above dilemma, reflected in the contemporary urban restructuration process, is increasingly getting included in the globalisation discourse in the field of urban studies in recent years. Central to the theme is the link between ideology and socio-spatial formations and the role of power in controlling urban space. Here, power gets expressed largely through its economic parameters and is used repressively to support and intensify class divisions and thereby appropriate space.

The following themes would be taken up for discussion:

  1. Historicizing the City- this involves a review of literature of major historical texts across time
  2. The City and its many Lives- analyse socio-cultural accounts, biographies, films etc
  3. The Spatial Reproduction of Inequality in the City- Migration Patterns and Provisioning of Resources
  4. Urban Governance
  5. Power and Contestation in the City- conflicts over identity, space, built environment, communal violence etc.
  6. The sources include archival, textual, oral and audio-visual material. The student is free to choose the sources depending on the themes taken up for discussion.

Assessment Details with weights:

75% is written essay roughly 8000 words and 25% is class presentation

Reading List: Secondary Sources

  1. Indu Banga, The City in Indian History: Urban Demography, Society and Politics, (ed), Manohar 1994
  2. Mariam Dossal, Imperial Designs and Indian Realities: The Planning of Bombay City 1845-1875, OUP, 1996
  3. Sujata Patel and Alice Thorner, Bombay: Metaphor for Modern India, (ed) OUP, 2003
  4. Ashutosh Varshney Ethnic Conflict in India, Sage, 2002
  5. Anthony King, Colonial Urban Development: Culture, Social Power and Government, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1976
  6. Anthony King ‘Conceptualizations about Colonial Cities’, Colonial Cities: Essays on Urbanism in a Colonial Context, Leidan, 1985
  7. SARAI Readers
  8. The Public Domain
  9. The Cities of Everyday Life
  10. Lewis Mumford, The City in History, Penguin, 1976
  11. V.T.Oldenburg The Making of Colonial Lucknow, Princeton University Press, 1984
  12. Narayani Gupta, Delhi Between Two Empires, 1803-1931: Society, Government and Urban Growth, OUP, 1981
  13. Gillian, Ahmedabad: A Study in Indian Urban History, CUP
  14. Amitabh Kundu and Darshini Mahadevia (ed) Poverty and Vulnerability in a Globalizing Metropolis: Ahmedabad, Manak Publications
  15. Ghanshyam Shah et al (ed), Development and Deprivation in Gujarat, Essays in Honour of Jan Breman, Sage, 2002
  16. Mariam Dossal, Theatre of Conflict: City of Hope, Bombay/Mumbai 1660 to Present Times, OUP, 2010
  17. Kushal Deb and Sujata Patel (ed) Urban Sociology, OUP, 2006
  18. Smriti Srinivas, Landscapes of the Urban Memory: The Sacred and the Civic in India’s High-Tech City, University of Minnesota Press, 2001.
  19. The primary sources will depend on the actual theme chosen for study