Mumbai Industrial Museum

Machinery in Kohinoor Mills no.1-2, Dadar (East), 2002
Machinery in Kohinoor Mills no.1-2, Dadar (East), 2002

This is a a proposal for a grant to develop the idea of an Industrial Museum in the Mill Lands of Mumbai. .

You can also download the PDF of this proposal which was supported by a seed grant from the India Foundation for the Arts (IFA), Bangalore in 2004-2005, much before the landmark court case on the Mumbai Mill Lands in 2005-2006.

Rajesh Vora’s photography of the NTC mills was published in Darryl D’Monte, ed., Mills for Sale: The Way Ahead (Mumbai: MARG, 2006). Collaborators Ashok G. Bapat and Raj Chandavarkar expired in 2006, and Arvind Adarkar in 2013.

This project was conceived much before proposals in 2013-2014 for a textile or mill museum in India United Mills no.2 (Alexandra Mills) in Kalachowki, now in municipal possession and reserved as an open heritage space.

1. Introduction

The Mumbai Industrial Museum Collaboration seeks to address the crisis of civic imagination driven by two dramatic transformations in our contemporary urban landscapes — the deindustrialisation of manufacturing and production, and the dematerialisation of culture and information.

These parallel transformations have replaced large-scale factories and organised urban working classes with dispersed networks of subcontracted and informal production in slums and hinterlands on the one hand; and on the other hand, they have replaced the space of the traditional museum, library and archive with virtual networks of communications, entertainment and commerce. While these historic industrial and technological changes are common to cities across the world, in Mumbai their articulation in the public sphere remains deeply contested and polarised.

In the twenty years since the Bombay Textile Strike inaugurated a post-industrial era of social and spatial restructuring — in which nearly a million factory workers lost their jobs in various industries — political and cultural responses to urban change are divided. They range from the celebratory rhetoric of the utopia of finance and services, styled on Singapore or Hong Kong, to the passionate protests of activists and community groups against the destruction of livelihoods and homes, in factory closures and slum demolitions. The new politics of space and work in post-industrial Mumbai has yet to be comprehensively documented, much less re-imagined, and the importance of a collaborative urbanism to this task is obvious.

In this proposal for the Industrial Museum Collaboration, we outline a project to develop an Archive and Network, which can bring together various individual practitioners and groups into dialogue and action on these questions, in relation to the textile mill districts of the inner-city, also known as the Mumbai Mill Lands or Girangaon.

3. Re-imagining the Museum

The idea of a museum today departs radically from the concept of the modern museum as we know it. The form of knowledge represented by the traditional idea of the museum is often alienating — representing the abstraction of knowledge from its living contexts. Postcolonial critics have charged that museums in the colonial world represented the objectification of living cultures, and their classification and exhibition as a sets of lifeless artefacts and exotic objects is part of the domination of colonial science and racist ideology over native knowledge systems.

Another critique of museums sees them as preserves of the past, of the lost history of communities or peoples, with no contemporary relevance except as cultural or historical memorials, or as tourist sites. Yet another critique views museums, like art galleries and other cultural spaces, as narrowly fixated on aesthetics or symbolism, reflecting increasing consumerism and the emptying of meaning in public culture.

What makes traditional museums so alienating is that while they exhibit artefacts and objects, the knowledge about them is produced somewhere else — by experts, scientists, and bureaucratic authorities. The sense of wonder and amazement which traditional museums generate is of knowledge as static object, of individual perception removed from personal meaning and social context. A similar alienation around knowledge is mirrored in many modern institutions — from the school and university to the central library and state archive — whose power and forms of knowledge we are only now beginning to question.

Recent advances in communications, information and media technologies have provided the conditions for this questioning, by blurring boundaries of time and space, of the actual and virtual dimensions of perception. Television and visual media have radically altered our perception of the written word, and the Internet has subverted traditional means of organising knowledge in libraries. This dematerialisation of perception through mass media presents an opportunity to re-orient our relationship to knowledge and its representations in public culture and space, thereby reconceptualising the museum as institution.

Unlike many institutions which tend to isolate themselves from their the surrounding community, the museum as a space is explicitly organised to admit a constant stream of visitors into its boundaries. However, despite recognising its character as a public space, we ignore the agency of the public which frequents museums, bringing their own ways of seeing and constructing subjective meaning from narratives, objects and artefacts.

Going to a museum can be an experience in understanding the complex relationships of perception and imagination that we have with objects, artefacts, and technology. Museums are spaces which allow for a more tactile understanding of knowledge, and how it is produced. Seen in this way, they are also the hub of vibrant cultural communities publicly interacting in a shared space of reflection and pedagogy.

Today museums can accommodate multiple narratives about objects, artefacts and their relationships to people, living relations which can be animated and narrated, rather than simply exhibited. The idea of objects or artefacts taken out of their living contexts and self-evidently standing for themselves has no place in our conception of the museum, which seeks to explore how deeply enmeshed are objects — especially technological objects — with human activity and social formation.

Our conception of the Industrial Museum builds on the recognition of these possibilities, and seeks to take them further by engaging with the politics of museumisation, the tourism and culture industries, and practices of urban heritage and conservation. The Industrial Museum Collaboration will enter these debates by articulating a new kind of cultural institution, challenging the colonial and nationalist tradition of the modern museum, and revising their identity as public spaces.

In Mumbai, public awareness of urban arts and heritage has experienced a significant revival, in the same historical moment as manufacturing industries and factory workers have fled the Island City and Suburbs of Greater Mumbai. However, heritage discourse and conservation practice has only implicitly acknowledged this important fact. Urban heritage has been almost exclusively about the colonial city — protecting its built fabric and rendering visible its monumental signs — reinvigorating civic pride through historical nostalgia.

Heritage has been about the colonial or modernist city, not about the industrial city. As heritage has increased in public consciousness and visibility — through legislation and protection, the organisation of new city and neighbourhood festivals, and an outpouring of romantic cultural representations — industry and manufacturing have been obscured from public view and memory.

Vast complexes of production and entire working-class communities across the city have been decimated and extinguished, in a prolonged social and spatial restructuring of the city’s economy since the Bombay Textile Strike thirty years ago — in the textile mills of central Mumbai, the chemical and engineering factories and industrial estates in suburban Greater Mumbai, and in the old docks of the Bombay Port Trust.

Through the Industrial Museum Collaboration, we hope to chart a shift in the focus of urban conservationists, arts and heritage enthusiasts, and the public from the monuments and signs of the colonial or modernist periods to illuminating this hidden Other of the picture postcards and coffee-table representations — the people, machines and places that produced the twentieth-century industrial metropolis of Mumbai.

The Collaboration is premised on rendering visible the history of the industrial city which has been extinguished by factory closures and the flight of manufacturing, as well as the new “global city” which is developing around economies of services, information and culture. Our proposed Collaboration seeks to recover the active presence of work and technology in our everyday lives, challenging the commonly-accepted vision of manufacturing inevitably giving way to services.

In the era of globalisation, mega-cities like Mumbai have emerged as the primary site for the articulation of new social, economic and cultural imaginations, and the various technological means to realise these visions. The Industrial Museum Collaboration seeks to find a new cultural-institutional form to narrate these histories, and invite the urban public to tell its own stories of work, aspiration and movement that produced the thriving mega-city we know today as the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

While practitioners such as historians, architects, activists and artists each have their own powerful ways of imagining the city, it is only recently that their isolation from each others’ ways of seeing and understanding has been loosened. Wider economic and technological changes are breaking the sway of a generation of institutions which established the postcolonial nation-state as the dominant form of cultural and political imagination.

The breakdown of these forms — so far experienced largely as crisis and decline — presents an opportunity to reimagine the relations between knowledges on which nationalist institutions had imposed an estrangement, in the name of disciplinarity and expertise. Amongst these alienated forms are the traditional museum and archive, whose present crisis holds out the possibility of forging new forms of inter-disciplinary knowledge which arise from the deep disjunctures between different practices when they address the city as an object.

Indeed it is in only in cities and urban contexts that practices are compelled to recognise their complex interdependence when confronting crises of public spaces such as institutions, environments, and markets. The highly polarised and contested nature of the debate on Mumbai’s Mill Lands demands such a recognition of the collaborative nature of urbanism.

4. Reimagining Collaboration

In the context of the proposed project, our idea of collaboration is centred around the possibility of creating new imaginations of civic community by engaging with the themes of dematerialisation/museumisation and deindustrialisation both within and between disciplinary practices in the city.

Each of the Collaborators (see below) have joined the project on the basis of concerns unique to their disciplines, as well as through their common desire to construct an inclusive platform to address a post-industrial city torn apart by the forces of a chaotic and predatory capitalism. The Industrial Museum Collaboration will thus be operationalised at two levels.

Through the Industrial Museum Workshops, the specific disciplinary concerns of the collaborating practitioners — in film and photography, architecture and urban design, history and geography, and activism and urban development — will be explored through a series of intensive pedagogic interactions. Each collaborator will design and organise a Workshop involving fellow practitioners, selected resource persons, and students and young persons from the local community, in addition to the other Collaborators.

Parallel to this, the Project Coordinators and Collaborator will help compile and curate a web-based, public Industrial Museum Archive from existing materials and documentation on the Mill Lands — from digital photography, video and sound resources, to maps and documents and reports — contributed by the Collaborators from their own work, as well as through their contacts with community members, activists, artists and collectors. The Archive will both serve as an index and repository for the Collaboration — containing and sharing the previous work of the Collaborators, archival resources, and the material generated in the Workshops — as well as an ongoing virtual exhibition of the Industrial Museum.

In a meeting of the Collaborators in September 2004, we agreed that we all feel a need for a common platform to support the aspirations and concerns of the local community and activists, as well articulate a dialogue with the rest of the city, which the community is unable to address in its own terms, and where we have a special responsibility as concerned practitioners.

We also agreed that the time is now, considering the rapid changes in the locality, and the urgency of constructing a public platform and producing a document with which to negotiate with the city and state for creating a permanent institutional space in Central Mumbai — whether an industrial museum or kamgar kendra or cultural centre — through which local youth and the community can take ownership of their past and future in the city. The impetus of the Collaboration has arisen amongst outsiders with concerns animated by their own disciplines and creative practices, but we feel that the real meaning of collaboration is in exploring the relationship of our practices to a specific neighbourhood and community, and their crises of recognition when confronted with the culture and politics of the mill lands.

The idea of Girangaon is itself a product of an imagination through which the present Collaborators rallied together in support of the rights of workers in the closed mills through the nineties. This is the form of Collaboration which we hope to achieve in the proposed project. The Workshops and Archive, as interactive processes, will evolve the Industrial Museum from a curatorial concept to a public document, over the year-long Collaboration. These two processes will be operationalised after a preliminary three-month phase, in which the Collaborators will hold an internal workshop to detail out their plans for their Workshops and Archives. It is through these two processes — the intra-disciplinary Workshops and inter-disciplinary Archives — that the phenomena of dematerialisation and deindustrialisation in Girangaon can be better visualised and understood through a range of urban practices, and the imagination of the city can therefore be reclaimed.

I. Industrial Museum Workshops

The Industrial Museum Workshops will form a key medium by which to bring the Collaborators into regular and sustained dialogue through participatory pedagogic and documentation activities. They are the fundamental structure of the Collaboration, in which we envisage holding six bi-monthly Workshops over the course of the year-long Collaboration. These six Workshops will be convened after an internal Workshop for the Collaborators and Coordinators in the three-month preliminary phase of the grant (see below), in which they will detail out their plans and ideas for their Workshops and activities related to them (see Section 6, Industrial Museum Collaborators, below, for the list of Collaborators and their brief proposals).

Each Collaborator will design and convene a Workshop involving fellow practitioners from their discipline, as well as selected resource persons, students, activists and young persons from the local community (in addition to the other Collaborators). The six Industrial Museum Workshops will tentatively be organised as follows:

•Music/Sound/Performance (Paromita Vohra)

•Documentary Photography (Rajesh Vora)

•Heritage Conservation and Architecture (Neera Adarkar)

•Urban Development, Land and Housing (Arvind Adarkar and Meena Menon)

•History and Geography (Raj Chandavarkar and Douglas Haynes)

The workshops will explore specific issues of concern to practitioners when they are addressing the culture and politics of Girangaon, and the phenomena of dematerialisation/deindustrialisation in relation to their own and each others’ disciplinary practices and specific concerns. The Workshop programmes and plans will be further articulated by the Collaborators in the three-month preliminary grant phase in an internal Workshop (see Sections 6 and 7, Collaborators and Budget, below).

At the initiative of the Collaborators, the Workshops will also encourage and yield further work and documentation on Girangaon — such as narrative photography and video, audio recording of local musical and performance traditions, chawl, neighbourhood and housing designs plans and designs, and translations of literature and poetry. We hope to work with the youth of the Rozgar Hakk Samiti in these documentation activities, to both teach them about our own practices, as well as learn from their own ways of seeing their locality, and their understanding of its history, culture and politics. The work resulting from these activities will be digitally stored in the Industrial Museum Archive, and form the curatorial resources for the final document and exhibition.

We will aim to organise the Workshops in conjunction with other local educational and cultural institutions, and interested groups in their specific disciplines. In these Workshops, we expect to create a community of practitioners who can openly share and explore their affinities and differences, as they collectively confront the concerns of the Industrial Museum Collaboration.

While supporting such a dialogue initially through the participation of Collaborators, the Workshops will further aim at the formation of concrete institutional and project agendas in direct partnership with associations of local community stake-holders such as the Girangaon Rozgar Hakk Samiti, and other interested parties such as the State Government and National Textile Corporation (NTC). The Girangaon Rozgar Hakk Samiti, an organisation of youth and former workers, hopes to establish a community centre or ‘kamgar kendra’ in Central Mumbai.

The proposed activities of this centre include vocational and educational training, sports and entertainment, and civic and cultural activities inspired by the traditions of working-class theatre, poetry, literature and arts in Girangaon. In partnership with this and other community organisations, we hope to achieve our objective of reimagining the form of cultural institutions such as the museum and urban discourses such as heritage conservation, in a less elitist and more inclusive direction, through the direct participation of the community in the representation and imagination of their history, aspirations and identities in a new public space.

II. Industrial Museum Archive

In the past ten years, the debate on the Mumbai Mill Lands and Girangaon has yielded a rich fund of documentation, critical literature and creative expression on the phenomenon of urban deindustrialisation — from academic monographs and books, to activist fact-finding reports, to urban design studies and planning documents, to photographic and video documentation of mill workers’ struggles, to artistic representations of the city’s post-industrial landscapes. All of the Collaborators have been involved in these efforts at documenting, understanding and imagining these epochal social and spatial transformations, through their own work as film-makers, activists, architects, photographers, historians and curators.

Our proposed Industrial Museum Archive will comprehensively index, collate, and compile into a online, public-access digital database these valuable resources and materials, many of which are at present inaccessible, out of circulation, or unknown to the public. The Archive is intended to foreground the people’s struggles and resistances to urban deindustrialisation since the Bombay Textile Strike in the early eighties — a watershed event which, twenty years earlier, inaugurated new practices of fact-finding, investigation and documentation for a generation of young urban activists.

The Archive aims at both empowering the people’s struggles through a recognition of their place in history, as well as encouraging new research and documentation on local and community histories of the urban working classes, the shifting social and spatial dynamics of land, labour and technology in the post-industrial city, the aesthetics and politics of industrial landscapes in art and cinema, and other concerns. The Industrial Museum Archive will be initially developed as a comprehensive index of resources, people, and materials presently known to the Collaborators.

These include historical photography of the strikes and working class movement in the neighbourhood; oral histories of poets, activists, and workers; development plans and policy documents relating to land-use, planning, and the redevelopment of the mill districts; maps and urban designs of the mill districts done in previous studies; architectural documentation and lists of structures for heritage conservation; bibliographies of Marathi theatre, poetry and literature specifically concerned with the mill workers movement; video footage of the neighbourhood and the community’s struggle over the past twenty years; and directories of individuals in the community and city concerned with all of the above. The Collaborators’ Workshops will generate more materials for the Archive, which we see a key medium of exchange — linking the specific disciplinary concerns of the Workshops with the wider inter-disciplinary agenda of the Collaboration.

As an outcome of the proposed project, this public digital archive will be operationalised through a web portal run on free/open-source software, published on a copyleft license which will protect the original rights of the authors and contributors, while encouraging reproduction and dissemination in new forms for education, research and advocacy.

The Archive will base itself on an overall map of Girangaon and Central Mumbai — listing both tangible structures and spaces and intangible memories, narratives, and images — providing a framework for indexing and archiving existing materials, and developing new inquiries about specific local institutions, neighbourhoods, or mill districts in a spatial context. This Archive will comprise the virtual resource base for a curated exhibition organised by Coordinators and Collaborators at the end of the grant cycle. The Exhibition will feature installations, documentation, material and artefacts which could provide the basis for a future museum or cultural institution, which the Central and State Government have already proposed establishing in the Mumbai Mill Lands, with the support of the National Textile Corporation (NTC).

Apart from those cited above, some of the many institutional sources of material for the Industrial Museum Archive we have identified are:

Study Group on the Cotton Textile Mill Lands of Mumbai (Correa Committee Report), Girangaon Bachao Andolan, Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti and Maharashtra Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti, Lokshahi Hakk Sanghatana, Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR), Congress of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Girni Kamgar Union, Maniben Kara Institute, Trade Union Solidarity Committee (TUSC), Bombay Mill-Owners’ Association (BMOA), Indian Cotton Mills Federation, Indian Textile Journal, Maharashtra State Archives, Office of the Textile Commissioner, East India Cotton Merchants Association, Asiatic Society of Bombay Special Collections, National Textile Corporation (NTC), Union Research Group, BUILD Documentation Centre, Centre for Education & Documentation (CED), Bombay Textile Research Association (BTRA), and the libraries of the Bombay Chamber of Commerce and the Indian Merchants Chamber.

We hope that, through additional funding from other sources, the Archive will subsequently develop into a resource base for researchers, activists, and cultural practitioners seeking a broader understanding of industrial and technological change in contemporary Mumbai.

  1. 5. Background of Project Coordinators

  1. I. Anirudh Paul

After many years of chaotic and piecemeal redevelopment by private mill-owners and builders, on 29 February 1996, the Government of Maharashtra established the “Study Group on the Cotton Textile Mill Lands of Mumbai”, chaired by noted architect Charles Correa, to prepare an integrated development plan for the textile mill lands of central Mumbai (see supporting materials enclosed herewith). Under the recently revised Development Control Rules, the Government of Maharashtra felt that an opportunity for releasing space for public housing and urban space could be meaningfully generated through this planning exercise. The Study Group, which henceforth was known as the Correa Committee, appointed the Design Cell of the Kamala Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture (KRVIA) to assist in preparing the integrated development plan, for which I was the project in-charge.

The Correa Committee was allowed access to the mills owned by the National Textile Corporation (NTC) — a public sector undertaking formed in the eighties to nationalise and modernise ailing private textile mills. The Committee was not permitted access to the privately-owned textile mills by their owners. The Committee undertook physical documentation of the NTC mills for their buildings’ historical importance, structural condition and present use, landscape features and physical transformations over time. The Committee also carried out a visual analysis of the midtown mill districts, analysing their existing movement pattern, open space structure and urban form. The immediate imperative of the Committee was to formulate a broad land-use plan for the city, and their methodology did not at all address the local working-class communities and their relationship with this part of the city. The final episodes of the workers’ struggle against closures and retrenchments in the textile mills was the backdrop against which the Committee conducted its work in 1996–7, but this did not figure at all in the Committee’s deliberations.

The Committee worked with the broad assumption that visibility, accessibility and space-movement relations would create a system of inclusive public spaces serving the local communities and the city as a whole. While old buildings and other physical markers were seen as possible symbolic links to the local community, the possibility of exploring these historical relationships was never seen as an important part of the integrated development plan. Interestingly, the Committee suggested that these structures were of heritage value, and needed to be conserved and re-used for commercial or institutional purposes. By retaining these markers, the Committee argued that the history and memory of the textile industry would be retained in public consciousness. In this context an industrial or textile museum was also proposed by the Committee, behind which there was a tacit assumption that the struggle of the workers had conclusively ended. This plan, created with the lofty intention of making inclusive public spaces, thus was neither able to address the community’s feelings and aspirations, nor gain their support or wider public endorsement for the plan.

The Mumbai Mill Lands have witnessed a rapid transition in the past twenty years from an active industrial and manufacturing centre to a new frontier for real-estate expansionism, gentrification and land profiteering by builders, mill-owners, criminals and politicians. The objective of the Correa Committee — to coordinate and promote integrated development of these areas with the city and community — has been subverted through haphazard commercialisation, which has continued apace in the seven years since the Committee was formed. The proliferation of elite office and residential complexes, shopping malls and retail outlets, discotheques and bowling alleys, and new fly-overs in the Mill Lands are creating an exclusive elite enclave in the former industrial heart of the city. This urban form derives its logic from the speculative real estate market, and is systematically erasing all traces of history and memory, driving the local community out of their homes and livelihoods.

The Government has been unable to lay out any clear policy, guideline, or overall strategy for the area and the transformations it is undergoing. The Correa Committee Report was shelved almost immediately after its completion, without any public discussion or debate on its limited findings. However, various activist groups, unions and public intellectuals have continued to fight for the local community’s rights to work, housing and new economic opportunities. This movement has transformed from one of strikes and protests against closures — agitating for restarting of the mills — to fighting for workers’ rights to compensation and rehabilitation for their lost jobs — mostly through litigation in the courts — to the present struggle over tenancy and housing rights of the local community, faced with displacement by the physical and demographic transformation of the Mill Lands.

While there is now a widespread acceptance of the decline of the city’s textile industry, the future presents a complex scenario. Responses to the commercial exploitation and redevelopment of the Mill Lands, while critical, have been disparate, polarised between groups with sharply different views on the status of workers and the industry in relation to the city. However, whether one believes that industry must be restarted and employment provided to the locals, or one feels that the community must be rehabilitated through service employment, all groups engaged in the debate have considered the process of documentation as important to articulating the future of the Mill Lands in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. The Industrial Museum Collaboration is conceived in this context, in which we expect that the provocative and loaded institutional legacy of the museum will bring together various stake-holders to scrutinise and debate the related questions of institutional memory, civic heritage, and the history of struggle, in relation to the contemporary history of the Mumbai Mill Lands. While the transformation of this area is ongoing, it is vital to evolve new methods of documentation which displace the conventional subject-object relations of the modern museum, a process which can play an important in integrating the local community and giving them new stakes in their future in the post-industrial city. The notion of the Industrial Museum helps me engage with the gaps which were evident in the formulations in the Correa Committee, in terms of the community’s history, identity and aspirations, which as architects and planners we must recognise in the articulation of public spaces in the city.

  1. II. Shekhar Krishnan

Since completing my undergraduate and postgraduate studies in social theory and area studies in the U.S. and U.K., I have pursued a freelance career in journalism, research and the non-profit sector in Mumbai. My interest in the Industrial Museum Collaboration proceeds directly from several stints of independent fieldwork and project collaboration over the past five years — first with trade unionists, labour lawyers and activists (1999-2000), and then with architects, urbanists and media practitioners (2001-2003).

Through fieldwork with the Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti, I documented and participated in campaigns for the economic and cultural rights of inner-city textile workers displaced by closures, gentrification, and real-estate profiteering in the mill districts of Central Bombay. During this time I wrote a pamphlet for the union, published by the Girangaon Bachao Andolan, called “Murder of the Mills: A Case Study of Phoenix Mills” (see supporting materials enclosed herewith). In the same year, I also did research with the Trade Union Solidarity Committee (TUSC) — a coalition of non-party employees’ unions in suburban petrochemical, pharmaceutical, consumer goods and service industries. Through numerous case studies of manufacturing units, and frequent visits to factories, offices, and labour courts, I became familiar with the broader contours of the city’s post-industrial landscapes — the evacuation of large-scale industry and working-class communities from inner-city and suburban lands; the outsourcing and dispersal of manufacturing activities into slums and the urban hinterland; and the growth of global-oriented service, retail and culture industries in the city, whose rapid expansion has exhausted the boom and bust of the real estate market in the nineties and continues apace.

After this year of full-time fieldwork, my concerns shifted from labour to technology, and from activism to pedagogy, as I allied myself with technical and aesthetic disciplines — architecture, urban design, and film and media — whose practices I have subsequently found helpful in anchoring my research inquiries. In this context, I founded and was the Joint Convenor of the Mumbai Study Group, a fortnightly seminar and lecture series on the city at the Academy of Architecture (2000-2002). The other convenors of MSG included Arvind Adarkar, architect, Darryl D’Monte, journalist and writer, and Pankaj Joshi, conservation architect, each of whom had critically explored urban deindustrialisation their own work, and who joined together to start a forum to debate this phenomenon in a public context. From this series which I ran for two years, I subsequently helped to start, was first Coordinator, and then Associate Director of PUKAR (Partners for Urban Knowledge Action & Research) (2001-2003), where I was employed as a full-time administrator of a cross-sectoral collective of social scientists, journalists, architects and media practitioners concerned with the urban experience and globalisation. The notion of the Industrial Museum — while not in itself unique — was first conceived in the context of my work with my former colleague Rahul Srivastava, whose methodology in his Neighbourhood Project has informed this proposal. While in PUKAR, I continued my research on post-industrial landscapes and the politics of space with the Design Cell of the Kamala Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture (KRVIA), where I first met Anirudh Paul and the team which later became CRIT, of which I am now an Executive Member.

Unlike with Western cities, on which there is a well-developed critical and scholarly literature on deindustrialisation and contemporary urban transformations, there are very few historical or ethnographic studies of technological and industrial restructuring in Indian cities. Recent accounts of Mumbai as a “global city” have neglected the specific histories in which globalisation is embedded, assimilating the city’s complex social history into just another instance in the relentless march of the information economy and its leading service industries.

It is in this conjuncture that I have situated my inquiries into the historical geography of the deindustrialisation of Mumbai in the mid to late twentieth century. In this period, Bombay grew into one of the great commercial and industrial metropolises of the colonial and postcolonial world, the centre of India’s capitalist economy, as well as the heart of its working class movement. In the twentieth century, several large industries successively redefined the city’s history and geography — its contingent networks of people, machines, and places — from textiles to pharmaceuticals, from banking to call centres, from films and television to telecoms and software.

In the period since the Bombay Textile Strike of 1982-3, the city has witnessed an overall social and spatial transformation, from a prominent industrial and manufacturing centre of the nation-state to an ever-expanding metropolitan region with an increasing share in new regional and global economies in the making. These reconfigurations, visible everywhere across the urban landscape today, are neither inevitable nor uncontested, and remain to be researched and analysed.

  1. 6. Industrial Museum Collaborators

The following persons are the core collaborators of the Industrial Museum Collaboration, who will contribute to and steer the activities of the Archives and Workshops, with the Project Coordinators (above) responsible for all administrative, financial and logistical matters related to the Collaboration. This list contains brief submissions from the Collaborators about their proposed Workshop and Archive activities within the Collaboration.

Rajnarayan Chandavarkar (Fellow, Trinity College and Director, South Asian Studies, Cambridge University, U.K.) is an historian and author of The Origins of Industrial Capitalism in India (Cambridge University Press, 1994) and Imperial Power and Popular Politics (Cambridge University Press, 1998), on the history of trade unionism and the mill neighbourhoods in colonial Mumbai.

Douglas Haynes (Professor of History, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, U.S.A.) is a social historian who has worked on the handloom and powerloom textile industries in Gujarat and Maharashtra.

As historians, they will organise a workshop on the history of the textile industry in India, focusing on western India. The three main purposes of this workshop are: to capture the current state of research on the history of the textile industry; to point to visual resources and objects of material culture that might be available for a museum; and to brainstorm about how the history of the textile industry might be presented in the context of a museum. Major themes to be discussed in the workshop are handlooms and the question of deindustrialisation; the origins of the textile industry and related issues of markets, technology, and entrepreneurship; the development of the working class, issues of migration, and conditions of work; the effects of industrialization on the urban environment, the development of working-class neighborhoods, trade union organisation and local politics. Possible participants include sociologists, historians, economists and other academics such as Tirthankar Roy, Manjiri Kamat, Subho Basu, Chitra Joshi, Sujata Patel, Jan Breman, Garrett Menning, Douglas Haynes, Emma Alexander, Makrand Mehta, Samita Sen, as well as the other Industrial Museum Coordinators and Collaborators, and curators from industrial heritage initiatives and working class history museums in Manchester and Lancashire, U.K.

Meena Menon (Vice President, Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti) is an activist and co-author, with Neera Adarkar, One Hundred Years, One Hundred Voices: Glimpses from the History of Bombay’s Textile Districts (Calcutta: Seagull, 2004), an oral history of Girangaon. She is also a Senior Fellow with FOCUS on the Global South, a global policy research organisation.

With Neera and Arvind Adarkar, she is facilitating links between the Collaboration and community activists in the Girangaon Rozgar Hakk Samiti, a recently formed youth organisation in Central Mumbai seeking to establish a community centre for local students and workers.

Arvind Adarkar (Convenor, Girangaon Bachao Andolan, Architect and Faculty, Academy of Architecture, Mumbai) is a practising architect and urban researcher. He is the co-convenor, with Darryl D’Monte and Pankaj Joshi, of the Mumbai Study Group at the Academy of Architecture.

He is currently coordinating a committee of distinguished lawyers, journalists, academics and architects to monitor sales of state and private textile mill lands in Central Mumbai. He plans to organise a workshop of these individuals and other resource persons to analyse, critique and offer policy suggestions for amendments to the Greater Mumbai Development Plan and Development Control Rules, in the context of housing, infrastructure and land markets in Girangaon and Central Mumbai.

Neera Adarkar (Convenor, Girangaon Bachao Andolan, Architect and Faculty, Academy of Architecture, Mumbai) is a practising architect, urban researcher, and activist in the women’s movement. She is co-author, with Meena Menon, One Hundred Years, One Hundred Voices: Glimpses from the History of Bombay’s Textile Districts (Calcutta: Seagull, 2004), an oral history of Girangaon.

She has proposed convening a workshop on urban heritage conservation policies in related to the post-industrial landscapes and built environment of Girangaon, in collaboration with other noted conservationists, architects, urban planners and policy-makers.

Paromita Vohra (Devi Pictures, Mumbai) is a film-maker who has been documenting the workers’ struggle and wider transformations in the Mumbai Mill Lands for the past seven years with the Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti. She has been working on a film, tentatively titled The Forgotten City of Girangaon, on the rich cultural and political history of the Mumbai Mill Lands told through stories of local poets, musicians, activists and workers. She has proposed developing a sound archive for the Collaboration.

< >Bardic poetry/song have been an intrinsic part of the cultural and political life of the mill area and there have been both poets and singers who made this form popular. The songs have been a special kind of urban folk culture, reflecting life in the city in the rhythm and structure of folk music. Most famous of these is of course, Mumbai chi Lavni, a satirical song in the classic mode of listing the city’s glories and venalities. Typically this singing was also used to gather workers at mill gates as a prelude to a meeting.

< >The more popular of this music and poetry has been recorded and is available on music cassettes in the area. However, there is no comprehensive collection of all the songs. I would like to do a sound documentation/oral history project along with young people and women in the area. The documentation would involve doing about 4 workshops in all to talk about sound documentation – not just its technicalities, but also the concerns central to the form, as well as to the process of interviewing – as well as to evolve a set of themes along which the documentation would happen. Through this documentation I would like to draw out a sense of a part of cultural life in the area – what were its actual contours? How did people perceive the supposed culture of Girangaon? The actual process would involve giving mini-disc sound recorders to the field researchers. Documentation would be primarily of two types: interviews with singers and poets about the songs they wrote, and recordings or recitations in their voices; and interviews with people from the neighbourhood who may remember these songs – how do they remember hearing them, what relevance or enjoyment do they perceive in these songs.

< >Rajesh Vora is a freelance professional photographer.

While visiting the state-owned, partially functioning mills of the NTC over the past two years, I discovered that, within the cavernous industrial spaces of the textile mills, the workers had created their own private nooks and corners in their factories — satisfying their physical, social and emotional needs for “safe” homes and spaces within an often harsh and anonymous workplace. These include canteens and locker rooms in the mills, as well as common and social spaces within the mill compunds, such as gates, tanks and open grounds. With the closure of the mills, these private corners and personal spaces will be erased from existence, wiping out the memories of how they were inhabited and used by the workers, both for their daily livelihood and sustenance, as well as for everyday leisure and celebration. I would like to photograph these personal spaces of the mill workers, both inside their factories and in their surrounding neighbourhoods, and combine photography with the narratives of the local community, to tell a visual story of the personal spaces and everyday lives of mill workers.

As part of the Collaboration, I will convene two photography workshops, one with the local community, and the other with photographers in the city media. The first workshop with the mill workers’ children living in the mill areas, part of the Girangaon Rozgar Hakk Samiti. With the help of the other Collaborators, we will identify group of local youth who either individually or through their families, have been affected by the closures of the textile mills in the past twenty tears.

While training them to use digital cameras, will attempt to capture their interpretations of the social, economic and environmental changes in the areas where they grew up. We would like to go with them to these sites, and encourage them to tell their stories — narratives which can be a creative combination of digital photography, sound, words, essays and poems. In the second workshop, we will engage with photographers in the city’s print media, who have been covering the mill lands issue for many years, through the strike and closures to the present struggle.

< >The emphasis in this workshop will be to understand what professional photographers’ responsibilities are in visually representing important civic issues such as the mill lands redevelopment. The findings of this workshop could be published in the photographers’ respective publications, thus raising awareness of the issue to a potentially wide audience. All of the visual material generated from this Workshop will be published and exhibited in the online Archive, and form part of the proposed exhibition.

As a more personal contribution to the Collaboration, I would also like to photograph the dreams and desperation, and the anger and aspirations of the present generation of local youth who have grown up in the shadow of closed mills, communal violence, and loss of economic and cultural opportunities. I propose to do this through living with a group of young or middle-age locals, who have lived through a generation of change and dislocation in Girangaon, attempting to understand and visually document their experiences as a personal, creative journey into their lives, which are rarely represented in the dominant media and official accounts.

This is a a proposal for a grant to develop the idea of an Industrial Museum for the . You can also download the PDF of this proposal.

This project was supported by a seed grant from the India Foundation for the Arts (IFA), Bangalore. Rajesh Vora’s photography of the NTC mills was published in Darryl D’Monte, ed., Mills for Sale: The Way Ahead (Mumbai: MARG, 2006).

Ashok G. Bapat, chief engineer of National Textile Corporation (NTC) North, Mumbai, and Rajnarayan Chandavarkar, historian at Cambridge University, both passed away unexpectedly in 2006. Architect Arvind Adarkar expired in 2013.

This project was conceived much before the landmark court case on the Mumbai Mill Lands in 2005-2006, and proposals in 2013-2014 for a textile or mill museum in India United Mills no.2 (Alexandra Mills) in Kalachowki, now in municipal possession and reserved as an open heritage space.

1. Introduction

The Industrial Museum Collaboration seeks to address the crisis of civic imagination driven by two dramatic transformations in our contemporary urban landscapes — the deindustrialisation of manufacturing and production, and the dematerialisation of culture and information.

These parallel transformations have replaced large-scale factories and organised urban working classes with dispersed networks of subcontracted and informal production in slums and hinterlands on the one hand; and on the other hand, they have replaced the space of the traditional museum, library and archive with virtual networks of communications, entertainment and commerce. While these historic industrial and technological changes are common to cities across the world, in Mumbai their articulation in the public sphere remains deeply contested and polarised. <>

In the twenty years since the Bombay Textile Strike inaugurated a post-industrial era of social and spatial restructuring — in which nearly a million factory workers lost their jobs in various industries — political and cultural responses to urban change are divided. They range from the celebratory rhetoric of the utopia of finance and services, styled on Singapore or Hong Kong, to the passionate protests of activists and community groups against the destruction of livelihoods and homes, in factory closures and slum demolitions. The new politics of space and work in post-industrial Mumbai has yet to be comprehensively documented, much less re-imagined, and the importance of a collaborative urbanism to this task is obvious.

In this proposal for the Industrial Museum Collaboration, we outline a project to develop an Archive and Network, which can bring together various individual practitioners and groups into dialogue and action on these questions, in relation to the textile mill districts of the inner-city, also known as the Mumbai Mill Lands or Girangaon.

3. Re-imagining the Museum

The idea of a museum today departs radically from the concept of the modern museum as we know it. The form of knowledge represented by the traditional idea of the museum is often alienating — representing the abstraction of knowledge from its living contexts. Postcolonial critics have charged that museums in the colonial world represented the objectification of living cultures, and their classification and exhibition as a sets of lifeless artefacts and exotic objects is part of the domination of colonial science and racist ideology over native knowledge systems.

Another critique of museums sees them as preserves of the past, of the lost history of communities or peoples, with no contemporary relevance except as cultural or historical memorials, or as tourist sites. Yet another critique views museums, like art galleries and other cultural spaces, as narrowly fixated on aesthetics or symbolism, reflecting increasing consumerism and the emptying of meaning in public culture.

What makes traditional museums so alienating is that while they exhibit artefacts and objects, the knowledge about them is produced somewhere else — by experts, scientists, and bureaucratic authorities. The sense of wonder and amazement which traditional museums generate is of knowledge as static object, of individual perception removed from personal meaning and social context. A similar alienation around knowledge is mirrored in many modern institutions — from the school and university to the central library and state archive — whose power and forms of knowledge we are only now beginning to question.

Recent advances in communications, information and media technologies have provided the conditions for this questioning, by blurring boundaries of time and space, of the actual and virtual dimensions of perception. Television and visual media have radically altered our perception of the written word, and the Internet has subverted traditional means of organising knowledge in libraries. This dematerialisation of perception through mass media presents an opportunity to re-orient our relationship to knowledge and its representations in public culture and space, thereby reconceptualising the museum as institution.

Unlike many institutions which tend to isolate themselves from their the surrounding community, the museum as a space is explicitly organised to admit a constant stream of visitors into its boundaries. However, despite recognising its character as a public space, we ignore the agency of the public which frequents museums, bringing their own ways of seeing and constructing subjective meaning from narratives, objects and artefacts.

Going to a museum can be an experience in understanding the complex relationships of perception and imagination that we have with objects, artefacts, and technology. Museums are spaces which allow for a more tactile understanding of knowledge, and how it is produced. Seen in this way, they are also the hub of vibrant cultural communities publicly interacting in a shared space of reflection and pedagogy.

Today museums can accommodate multiple narratives about objects, artefacts and their relationships to people, living relations which can be animated and narrated, rather than simply exhibited. The idea of objects or artefacts taken out of their living contexts and self-evidently standing for themselves has no place in our conception of the museum, which seeks to explore how deeply enmeshed are objects — especially technological objects — with human activity and social formation.

Our conception of the Industrial Museum builds on the recognition of these possibilities, and seeks to take them further by engaging with the politics of museumisation, the tourism and culture industries, and practices of urban heritage and conservation. The Industrial Museum Collaboration will enter these debates by articulating a new kind of cultural institution, challenging the colonial and nationalist tradition of the modern museum, and revising their identity as public spaces.

In Mumbai, public awareness of urban arts and heritage has experienced a significant revival, in the same historical moment as manufacturing industries and factory workers have fled the Island City and Suburbs of Greater Mumbai. However, heritage discourse and conservation practice has only implicitly acknowledged this important fact. Urban heritage has been almost exclusively about the colonial city — protecting its built fabric and rendering visible its monumental signs — reinvigorating civic pride through historical nostalgia.

Heritage has been about the colonial or modernist city, not about the industrial city. As heritage has increased in public consciousness and visibility — through legislation and protection, the organisation of new city and neighbourhood festivals, and an outpouring of romantic cultural representations — industry and manufacturing have been obscured from public view and memory.

Vast complexes of production and entire working-class communities across the city have been decimated and extinguished, in a prolonged social and spatial restructuring of the city’s economy since the Bombay Textile Strike thirty years ago — in the textile mills of central Mumbai, the chemical and engineering factories and industrial estates in suburban Greater Mumbai, and in the old docks of the Bombay Port Trust.

Through the Industrial Museum Collaboration, we hope to chart a shift in the focus of urban conservationists, arts and heritage enthusiasts, and the public from the monuments and signs of the colonial or modernist periods to illuminating this hidden Other of the picture postcards and coffee-table representations — the people, machines and places that produced the twentieth-century industrial metropolis of Mumbai.

The Collaboration is premised on rendering visible the history of the industrial city which has been extinguished by factory closures and the flight of manufacturing, as well as the new “global city” which is developing around economies of services, information and culture. Our proposed Collaboration seeks to recover the active presence of work and technology in our everyday lives, challenging the commonly-accepted vision of manufacturing inevitably giving way to services.

In the era of globalisation, mega-cities like Mumbai have emerged as the primary site for the articulation of new social, economic and cultural imaginations, and the various technological means to realise these visions. The Industrial Museum Collaboration seeks to find a new cultural-institutional form to narrate these histories, and invite the urban public to tell its own stories of work, aspiration and movement that produced the thriving mega-city we know today as the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

While practitioners such as historians, architects, activists and artists each have their own powerful ways of imagining the city, it is only recently that their isolation from each others’ ways of seeing and understanding has been loosened. Wider economic and technological changes are breaking the sway of a generation of institutions which established the postcolonial nation-state as the dominant form of cultural and political imagination.

The breakdown of these forms — so far experienced largely as crisis and decline — presents an opportunity to reimagine the relations between knowledges on which nationalist institutions had imposed an estrangement, in the name of disciplinarity and expertise. Amongst these alienated forms are the traditional museum and archive, whose present crisis holds out the possibility of forging new forms of inter-disciplinary knowledge which arise from the deep disjunctures between different practices when they address the city as an object.

Indeed it is in only in cities and urban contexts that practices are compelled to recognise their complex interdependence when confronting crises of public spaces such as institutions, environments, and markets. The highly polarised and contested nature of the debate on Mumbai’s Mill Lands demands such a recognition of the collaborative nature of urbanism.

4. Reimagining Collaboration

In the context of the proposed project, our idea of collaboration is centred around the possibility of creating new imaginations of civic community by engaging with the themes of dematerialisation/museumisation and deindustrialisation both within and between disciplinary practices in the city.

Each of the Collaborators (see below) have joined the project on the basis of concerns unique to their disciplines, as well as through their common desire to construct an inclusive platform to address a post-industrial city torn apart by the forces of a chaotic and predatory capitalism. The Industrial Museum Collaboration will thus be operationalised at two levels.

Through the Industrial Museum Workshops, the specific disciplinary concerns of the collaborating practitioners — in film and photography, architecture and urban design, history and geography, and activism and urban development — will be explored through a series of intensive pedagogic interactions. Each collaborator will design and organise a Workshop involving fellow practitioners, selected resource persons, and students and young persons from the local community, in addition to the other Collaborators.

Parallel to this, the Project Coordinators and Collaborator will help compile and curate a web-based, public Industrial Museum Archive from existing materials and documentation on the Mill Lands — from digital photography, video and sound resources, to maps and documents and reports — contributed by the Collaborators from their own work, as well as through their contacts with community members, activists, artists and collectors. The Archive will both serve as an index and repository for the Collaboration — containing and sharing the previous work of the Collaborators, archival resources, and the material generated in the Workshops — as well as an ongoing virtual exhibition of the Industrial Museum.

In a meeting of the Collaborators in September 2004, we agreed that we all feel a need for a common platform to support the aspirations and concerns of the local community and activists, as well articulate a dialogue with the rest of the city, which the community is unable to address in its own terms, and where we have a special responsibility as concerned practitioners.

We also agreed that the time is now, considering the rapid changes in the locality, and the urgency of constructing a public platform and producing a document with which to negotiate with the city and state for creating a permanent institutional space in Central Mumbai — whether an industrial museum or kamgar kendra or cultural centre — through which local youth and the community can take ownership of their past and future in the city. The impetus of the Collaboration has arisen amongst outsiders with concerns animated by their own disciplines and creative practices, but we feel that the real meaning of collaboration is in exploring the relationship of our practices to a specific neighbourhood and community, and their crises of recognition when confronted with the culture and politics of the mill lands.

The idea of Girangaon is itself a product of an imagination through which the present Collaborators rallied together in support of the rights of workers in the closed mills through the nineties. This is the form of Collaboration which we hope to achieve in the proposed project. The Workshops and Archive, as interactive processes, will evolve the Industrial Museum from a curatorial concept to a public document, over the year-long Collaboration. These two processes will be operationalised after a preliminary three-month phase, in which the Collaborators will hold an internal workshop to detail out their plans for their Workshops and Archives. It is through these two processes — the intra-disciplinary Workshops and inter-disciplinary Archives — that the phenomena of dematerialisation and deindustrialisation in Girangaon can be better visualised and understood through a range of urban practices, and the imagination of the city can therefore be reclaimed.

I. Industrial Museum Workshops

The Industrial Museum Workshops will form a key medium by which to bring the Collaborators into regular and sustained dialogue through participatory pedagogic and documentation activities. They are the fundamental structure of the Collaboration, in which we envisage holding six bi-monthly Workshops over the course of the year-long Collaboration. These six Workshops will be convened after an internal Workshop for the Collaborators and Coordinators in the three-month preliminary phase of the grant (see below), in which they will detail out their plans and ideas for their Workshops and activities related to them (see Section 6, Industrial Museum Collaborators, below, for the list of Collaborators and their brief proposals).

Each Collaborator will design and convene a Workshop involving fellow practitioners from their discipline, as well as selected resource persons, students, activists and young persons from the local community (in addition to the other Collaborators). The six Industrial Museum Workshops will tentatively be organised as follows:

•Music/Sound/Performance

•Documentary Photography

•Heritage Conservation and Architecture

•Urban Development, Land and Housing

•History and Geography

The workshops will explore specific issues of concern to practitioners when they are addressing the culture and politics of Girangaon, and the phenomena of dematerialisation/deindustrialisation in relation to their own and each others’ disciplinary practices and specific concerns. The Workshop programmes and plans will be further articulated by the Collaborators in the three-month preliminary grant phase in an internal Workshop.

At the initiative of the Collaborators, the Workshops will also encourage and yield further work and documentation on Girangaon — such as narrative photography and video, audio recording of local musical and performance traditions, chawl, neighbourhood and housing designs plans and designs, and translations of literature and poetry. We hope to work with the youth of the Rozgar Hakk Samiti in these documentation activities, to both teach them about our own practices, as well as learn from their own ways of seeing their locality, and their understanding of its history, culture and politics. The work resulting from these activities will be digitally stored in the Industrial Museum Archive, and form the curatorial resources for the final document and exhibition.

We will aim to organise the Workshops in conjunction with other local educational and cultural institutions, and interested groups in their specific disciplines. In these Workshops, we expect to create a community of practitioners who can openly share and explore their affinities and differences, as they collectively confront the concerns of the Industrial Museum Collaboration.

While supporting such a dialogue initially through the participation of Collaborators, the Workshops will further aim at the formation of concrete institutional and project agendas in direct partnership with associations of local community stake-holders such as the Girangaon Rozgar Hakk Samiti, and other interested parties such as the State Government and National Textile Corporation (NTC). The Girangaon Rozgar Hakk Samiti, an organisation of youth and former workers, hopes to establish a community centre or ‘kamgar kendra’ in Central Mumbai.

The proposed activities of this centre include vocational and educational training, sports and entertainment, and civic and cultural activities inspired by the traditions of working-class theatre, poetry, literature and arts in Girangaon. In partnership with this and other community organisations, we hope to achieve our objective of reimagining the form of cultural institutions such as the museum and urban discourses such as heritage conservation, in a less elitist and more inclusive direction, through the direct participation of the community in the representation and imagination of their history, aspirations and identities in a new public space.

II. Industrial Museum Archive

In the past ten years, the debate on the Mumbai Mill Lands and Girangaon has yielded a rich fund of documentation, critical literature and creative expression on the phenomenon of urban deindustrialisation — from academic monographs and books, to activist fact-finding reports, to urban design studies and planning documents, to photographic and video documentation of mill workers’ struggles, to artistic representations of the city’s post-industrial landscapes. All of the Collaborators have been involved in these efforts at documenting, understanding and imagining these epochal social and spatial transformations, through their own work as film-makers, activists, architects, photographers, historians and curators.

Our proposed Industrial Museum Archive will comprehensively index, collate, and compile into a online, public-access digital database these valuable resources and materials, many of which are at present inaccessible, out of circulation, or unknown to the public. The Archive is intended to foreground the people’s struggles and resistances to urban deindustrialisation since the Bombay Textile Strike in the early eighties — a watershed event which, twenty years earlier, inaugurated new practices of fact-finding, investigation and documentation for a generation of young urban activists.

The Archive aims at both empowering the people’s struggles through a recognition of their place in history, as well as encouraging new research and documentation on local and community histories of the urban working classes, the shifting social and spatial dynamics of land, labour and technology in the post-industrial city, the aesthetics and politics of industrial landscapes in art and cinema, and other concerns. The Industrial Museum Archive will be initially developed as a comprehensive index of resources, people, and materials presently known to the Collaborators.

These include historical photography of the strikes and working class movement in the neighbourhood; oral histories of poets, activists, and workers; development plans and policy documents relating to land-use, planning, and the redevelopment of the mill districts; maps and urban designs of the mill districts done in previous studies; architectural documentation and lists of structures for heritage conservation; bibliographies of Marathi theatre, poetry and literature specifically concerned with the mill workers movement; video footage of the neighbourhood and the community’s struggle over the past twenty years; and directories of individuals in the community and city concerned with all of the above. The Collaborators’ Workshops will generate more materials for the Archive, which we see a key medium of exchange — linking the specific disciplinary concerns of the Workshops with the wider inter-disciplinary agenda of the Collaboration.

As an outcome of the proposed project, this public digital archive will be operationalised through a web portal run on free/open-source software, published on a copyleft license which will protect the original rights of the authors and contributors, while encouraging reproduction and dissemination in new forms for education, research and advocacy.

The Archive will base itself on an overall map of Girangaon and Central Mumbai — listing both tangible structures and spaces and intangible memories, narratives, and images — providing a framework for indexing and archiving existing materials, and developing new inquiries about specific local institutions, neighbourhoods, or mill districts in a spatial context. This Archive will comprise the virtual resource base for a curated exhibition organised by Coordinators and Collaborators at the end of the grant cycle. The Exhibition will feature installations, documentation, material and artefacts which could provide the basis for a future museum or cultural institution, which the Central and State Government have already proposed establishing in the Mumbai Mill Lands, with the support of the National Textile Corporation (NTC).

Apart from those cited above, some of the many institutional sources of material for the Industrial Museum Archive we have identified are:

Study Group on the Cotton Textile Mill Lands of Mumbai (Correa Committee Report), Girangaon Bachao Andolan, Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti and Maharashtra Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti, Lokshahi Hakk Sanghatana, Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR), Congress of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Girni Kamgar Union, Maniben Kara Institute, Trade Union Solidarity Committee (TUSC), Bombay Mill-Owners’ Association (BMOA), Indian Cotton Mills Federation, Indian Textile Journal, Maharashtra State Archives, Office of the Textile Commissioner, East India Cotton Merchants Association, Asiatic Society of Bombay Special Collections, National Textile Corporation (NTC), Union Research Group, BUILD Documentation Centre, Centre for Education & Documentation (CED), Bombay Textile Research Association (BTRA), and the libraries of the Bombay Chamber of Commerce and the Indian Merchants Chamber.

We hope that, through additional funding from other sources, the Archive will subsequently develop into a resource base for researchers, activists, and cultural practitioners seeking a broader understanding of industrial and technological change in contemporary Mumbai

5. Background of Project Coordinator

I. Anirudh Paul

After many years of chaotic and piecemeal redevelopment by private mill-owners and builders, on 29 February 1996, the Government of Maharashtra established the “Study Group on the Cotton Textile Mill Lands of Mumbai”, chaired by noted architect Charles Correa, to prepare an integrated development plan for the textile mill lands of central Mumbai (see supporting materials enclosed herewith). Under the recently revised Development Control Rules, the Government of Maharashtra felt that an opportunity for releasing space for public housing and urban space could be meaningfully generated through this planning exercise. The Study Group, which henceforth was known as the Correa Committee, appointed the Design Cell of the Kamala Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture (KRVIA) to assist in preparing the integrated development plan, for which I was the project in-charge.

The Correa Committee was allowed access to the mills owned by the National Textile Corporation (NTC) — a public sector undertaking formed in the eighties to nationalise and modernise ailing private textile mills. The Committee was not permitted access to the privately-owned textile mills by their owners. The Committee undertook physical documentation of the NTC mills for their buildings’ historical importance, structural condition and present use, landscape features and physical transformations over time. The Committee also carried out a visual analysis of the midtown mill districts, analysing their existing movement pattern, open space structure and urban form. The immediate imperative of the Committee was to formulate a broad land-use plan for the city, and their methodology did not at all address the local working-class communities and their relationship with this part of the city. The final episodes of the workers’ struggle against closures and retrenchments in the textile mills was the backdrop against which the Committee conducted its work in 1996–7, but this did not figure at all in the Committee’s deliberations.

The Committee worked with the broad assumption that visibility, accessibility and space-movement relations would create a system of inclusive public spaces serving the local communities and the city as a whole. While old buildings and other physical markers were seen as possible symbolic links to the local community, the possibility of exploring these historical relationships was never seen as an important part of the integrated development plan. Interestingly, the Committee suggested that these structures were of heritage value, and needed to be conserved and re-used for commercial or institutional purposes. By retaining these markers, the Committee argued that the history and memory of the textile industry would be retained in public consciousness. In this context an industrial or textile museum was also proposed by the Committee, behind which there was a tacit assumption that the struggle of the workers had conclusively ended. This plan, created with the lofty intention of making inclusive public spaces, thus was neither able to address the community’s feelings and aspirations, nor gain their support or wider public endorsement for the plan.

The Mumbai Mill Lands have witnessed a rapid transition in the past twenty years from an active industrial and manufacturing centre to a new frontier for real-estate expansionism, gentrification and land profiteering by builders, mill-owners, criminals and politicians. The objective of the Correa Committee — to coordinate and promote integrated development of these areas with the city and community — has been subverted through haphazard commercialisation, which has continued apace in the seven years since the Committee was formed. The proliferation of elite office and residential complexes, shopping malls and retail outlets, discotheques and bowling alleys, and new fly-overs in the Mill Lands are creating an exclusive elite enclave in the former industrial heart of the city. This urban form derives its logic from the speculative real estate market, and is systematically erasing all traces of history and memory, driving the local community out of their homes and livelihoods.

The Government has been unable to lay out any clear policy, guideline, or overall strategy for the area and the transformations it is undergoing. The Correa Committee Report was shelved almost immediately after its completion, without any public discussion or debate on its limited findings. However, various activist groups, unions and public intellectuals have continued to fight for the local community’s rights to work, housing and new economic opportunities. This movement has transformed from one of strikes and protests against closures — agitating for restarting of the mills — to fighting for workers’ rights to compensation and rehabilitation for their lost jobs — mostly through litigation in the courts — to the present struggle over tenancy and housing rights of the local community, faced with displacement by the physical and demographic transformation of the Mill Lands.

While there is now a widespread acceptance of the decline of the city’s textile industry, the future presents a complex scenario. Responses to the commercial exploitation and redevelopment of the Mill Lands, while critical, have been disparate, polarised between groups with sharply different views on the status of workers and the industry in relation to the city. However, whether one believes that industry must be restarted and employment provided to the locals, or one feels that the community must be rehabilitated through service employment, all groups engaged in the debate have considered the process of documentation as important to articulating the future of the Mill Lands in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. The Industrial Museum Collaboration is conceived in this context, in which we expect that the provocative and loaded institutional legacy of the museum will bring together various stake-holders to scrutinise and debate the related questions of institutional memory, civic heritage, and the history of struggle, in relation to the contemporary history of the Mumbai Mill Lands. While the transformation of this area is ongoing, it is vital to evolve new methods of documentation which displace the conventional subject-object relations of the modern museum, a process which can play an important in integrating the local community and giving them new stakes in their future in the post-industrial city. The notion of the Industrial Museum helps me engage with the gaps which were evident in the formulations in the Correa Committee, in terms of the community’s history, identity and aspirations, which as architects and planners we must recognise in the articulation of public spaces in the city.

II. Shekhar Krishnan

My interest in the Industrial Museum Collaboration proceeds directly from several stints of independent fieldwork and project collaboration over the past five years — first with trade unionists, labour lawyers and activists (1999-2000), and then with architects, urbanists and media practitioners (2001-2003).

Through fieldwork with the Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti, I documented and participated in campaigns for the economic and cultural rights of inner-city textile workers displaced by closures, gentrification, and real-estate profiteering in the mill districts of Central Bombay. During this time I wrote a pamphlet for the union, published by the Girangaon Bachao Andolan, called “Murder of the Mills: A Case Study of Phoenix Mills” (see supporting materials enclosed herewith). In the same year, I also did research with the Trade Union Solidarity Committee (TUSC) — a coalition of non-party employees’ unions in suburban petrochemical, pharmaceutical, consumer goods and service industries. Through numerous case studies of manufacturing units, and frequent visits to factories, offices, and labour courts, I became familiar with the broader contours of the city’s post-industrial landscapes — the evacuation of large-scale industry and working-class communities from inner-city and suburban lands; the outsourcing and dispersal of manufacturing activities into slums and the urban hinterland; and the growth of global-oriented service, retail and culture industries in the city, whose rapid expansion has exhausted the boom and bust of the real estate market in the nineties and continues apace.

After this year of full-time fieldwork, my concerns shifted from labour to technology, and from activism to pedagogy, as I allied myself with technical and aesthetic disciplines — architecture, urban design, and film and media — whose practices I have subsequently found helpful in anchoring my research inquiries. In this context, I founded and was the Joint Convenor of the Mumbai Study Group, a fortnightly seminar and lecture series on the city at the Academy of Architecture (2000-2002). The other convenors of MSG included Arvind Adarkar, architect, Darryl D’Monte, journalist and writer, and Pankaj Joshi, conservation architect, each of whom had critically explored urban deindustrialisation their own work, and who joined together to start a forum to debate this phenomenon in a public context. From this series which I ran for two years, I subsequently helped to start, was first Coordinator, and then Associate Director of PUKAR (Partners for Urban Knowledge Action & Research) (2001-2003), where I was employed as a full-time administrator of a cross-sectoral collective of social scientists, journalists, architects and media practitioners concerned with the urban experience and globalisation. The notion of the Industrial Museum — while not in itself unique — was first conceived in the context of my work with my former colleague Rahul Srivastava, whose methodology in his Neighbourhood Project has informed this proposal. While in PUKAR, I continued my research on post-industrial landscapes and the politics of space with the Design Cell of the Kamala Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture (KRVIA), where I first met Anirudh Paul and the team which later became CRIT, of which I am now an Executive Member.

Unlike with Western cities, on which there is a well-developed critical and scholarly literature on deindustrialisation and contemporary urban transformations, there are very few historical or ethnographic studies of technological and industrial restructuring in Indian cities. Recent accounts of Mumbai as a “global city” have neglected the specific histories in which globalisation is embedded, assimilating the city’s complex social history into just another instance in the relentless march of the information economy and its leading service industries.

It is in this conjuncture that I have situated my inquiries into the historical geography of the deindustrialisation of Mumbai in the mid to late twentieth century. In this period, Bombay grew into one of the great commercial and industrial metropolises of the colonial and postcolonial world, the centre of India’s capitalist economy, as well as the heart of its working class movement. In the twentieth century, several large industries successively redefined the city’s history and geography — its contingent networks of people, machines, and places — from textiles to pharmaceuticals, from banking to call centres, from films and television to telecoms and software.

In the period since the Bombay Textile Strike of 1982-3, the city has witnessed an overall social and spatial transformation, from a prominent industrial and manufacturing centre of the nation-state to an ever-expanding metropolitan region with an increasing share in new regional and global economies in the making. These reconfigurations, visible everywhere across the urban landscape today, are neither inevitable nor uncontested, and remain to be researched and analysed.

6. Industrial Museum Collaborators

The following persons are the core collaborators of the Industrial Museum Collaboration, who will contribute to and steer the activities of the Archives and Workshops, with the Project Coordinators (above) responsible for all administrative, financial and logistical matters related to the Collaboration. This list contains brief submissions from the Collaborators about their proposed Workshop and Archive activities within the Collaboration.

Rajnarayan Chandavarkar (Fellow, Trinity College and Director, South Asian Studies, Cambridge University, U.K.) is an historian and author of The Origins of Industrial Capitalism in India (Cambridge University Press, 1994) and Imperial Power and Popular Politics (Cambridge University Press, 1998), on the history of trade unionism and the mill neighbourhoods in colonial Mumbai.

Douglas Haynes (Professor of History, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, U.S.A.) is a social historian who has worked on the handloom and powerloom textile industries in Gujarat and Maharashtra.

As historians, they will organise a workshop on the history of the textile industry in India, focusing on western India. The three main purposes of this workshop are: to capture the current state of research on the history of the textile industry; to point to visual resources and objects of material culture that might be available for a museum; and to brainstorm about how the history of the textile industry might be presented in the context of a museum. Major themes to be discussed in the workshop are handlooms and the question of deindustrialisation; the origins of the textile industry and related issues of markets, technology, and entrepreneurship; the development of the working class, issues of migration, and conditions of work; the effects of industrialization on the urban environment, the development of working-class neighborhoods, trade union organisation and local politics.

Possible participants include sociologists, historians, economists and other academics such as Tirthankar Roy, Manjiri Kamat, Subho Basu, Chitra Joshi, Sujata Patel, Jan Breman, Garrett Menning, Douglas Haynes, Emma Alexander, Makrand Mehta, Samita Sen, as well as the other Industrial Museum Coordinators and Collaborators, and curators from industrial heritage initiatives and working class history museums in Manchester and Lancashire, U.K.

Meena Menon (Vice President, Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti) is an activist and co-author, with Neera Adarkar, One Hundred Years, One Hundred Voices: Glimpses from the History of Bombay’s Textile Districts (Calcutta: Seagull, 2004), an oral history of Girangaon. She is also a Senior Fellow with FOCUS on the Global South, a global policy research organisation.

With Neera and Arvind Adarkar, she is facilitating links between the Collaboration and community activists in the Girangaon Rozgar Hakk Samiti, a recently formed youth organisation in Central Mumbai seeking to establish a community centre for local students and workers.

Arvind Adarkar (Convenor, Girangaon Bachao Andolan, Architect and Faculty, Academy of Architecture, Mumbai) is a practising architect and urban researcher. He is the co-convenor, with Darryl D’Monte and Pankaj Joshi, of the Mumbai Study Group at the Academy of Architecture.

He is currently coordinating a committee of distinguished lawyers, journalists, academics and architects to monitor sales of state and private textile mill lands in Central Mumbai. He plans to organise a workshop of these individuals and other resource persons to analyse, critique and offer policy suggestions for amendments to the Greater Mumbai Development Plan and Development Control Rules, in the context of housing, infrastructure and land markets in Girangaon and Central Mumbai.

Neera Adarkar (Convenor, Girangaon Bachao Andolan, Architect and Faculty, Academy of Architecture, Mumbai) is a practising architect, urban researcher, and activist in the women’s movement. She is co-author, with Meena Menon, One Hundred Years, One Hundred Voices: Glimpses from the History of Bombay’s Textile Districts (Calcutta: Seagull, 2004), an oral history of Girangaon.

She has proposed convening a workshop on urban heritage conservation policies in related to the post-industrial landscapes and built environment of Girangaon, in collaboration with other noted conservationists, architects, urban planners and policy-makers.

Paromita Vohra (Devi Pictures, Mumbai) is a film-maker who has been documenting the workers’ struggle and wider transformations in the Mumbai Mill Lands for the past seven years with the Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti. She has been working on a film, tentatively titled The Forgotten City of Girangaon, on the rich cultural and political history of the Mumbai Mill Lands told through stories of local poets, musicians, activists and workers. She has proposed developing a sound archive for the Collaboration.

< >Bardic poetry/song have been an intrinsic part of the cultural and political life of the mill area and there have been both poets and singers who made this form popular. The songs have been a special kind of urban folk culture, reflecting life in the city in the rhythm and structure of folk music. Most famous of these is of course, Mumbai chi Lavni, a satirical song in the classic mode of listing the city’s glories and venalities. Typically this singing was also used to gather workers at mill gates as a prelude to a meeting.

< >The more popular of this music and poetry has been recorded and is available on music cassettes in the area. However, there is no comprehensive collection of all the songs. I would like to do a sound documentation/oral history project along with young people and women in the area. The documentation would involve doing about 4 workshops in all to talk about sound documentation – not just its technicalities, but also the concerns central to the form, as well as to the process of interviewing – as well as to evolve a set of themes along which the documentation would happen. Through this documentation I would like to draw out a sense of a part of cultural life in the area – what were its actual contours? How did people perceive the supposed culture of Girangaon? The actual process would involve giving mini-disc sound recorders to the field researchers. Documentation would be primarily of two types: interviews with singers and poets about the songs they wrote, and recordings or recitations in their voices; and interviews with people from the neighbourhood who may remember these songs – how do they remember hearing them, what relevance or enjoyment do they perceive in these songs.

Rajesh Vora is a freelance professional photographer.

While visiting the state-owned, partially functioning mills of the NTC over the past two years, I discovered that, within the cavernous industrial spaces of the textile mills, the workers had created their own private nooks and corners in their factories — satisfying their physical, social and emotional needs for “safe” homes and spaces within an often harsh and anonymous workplace. These include canteens and locker rooms in the mills, as well as common and social spaces within the mill compunds, such as gates, tanks and open grounds. With the closure of the mills, these private corners and personal spaces will be erased from existence, wiping out the memories of how they were inhabited and used by the workers, both for their daily livelihood and sustenance, as well as for everyday leisure and celebration. I would like to photograph these personal spaces of the mill workers, both inside their factories and in their surrounding neighbourhoods, and combine photography with the narratives of the local community, to tell a visual story of the personal spaces and everyday lives of mill workers.

As part of the Collaboration, I will convene two photography workshops, one with the local community, and the other with photographers in the city media. The first workshop with the mill workers’ children living in the mill areas, part of the Girangaon Rozgar Hakk Samiti. With the help of the other Collaborators, we will identify group of local youth who either individually or through their families, have been affected by the closures of the textile mills in the past twenty tears.

While training them to use digital cameras, will attempt to capture their interpretations of the social, economic and environmental changes in the areas where they grew up. We would like to go with them to these sites, and encourage them to tell their stories — narratives which can be a creative combination of digital photography, sound, words, essays and poems. In the second workshop, we will engage with photographers in the city’s print media, who have been covering the mill lands issue for many years, through the strike and closures to the present struggle.

The emphasis in this workshop will be to understand what professional photographers’ responsibilities are in visually representing important civic issues such as the mill lands redevelopment. The findings of this workshop could be published in the photographers’ respective publications, thus raising awareness of the issue to a potentially wide audience. All of the visual material generated from this Workshop will be published and exhibited in the online Archive, and form part of the proposed exhibition.

As a more personal contribution to the Collaboration, I would also like to photograph the dreams and desperation, and the anger and aspirations of the present generation of local youth who have grown up in the shadow of closed mills, communal violence, and loss of economic and cultural opportunities. I propose to do this through living with a group of young or middle-age locals, who have lived through a generation of change and dislocation in Girangaon, attempting to understand and visually document their experiences as a personal, creative journey into their lives, which are rarely represented in the dominant media and official accounts.

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