All posts by Shekhar Krishnan

MIT Urban South Asia Workshop (2006-2008)

This is a full archive of articles and books from the twenty sessions of Urban South Asia, a workshop and reading group on cities in India and Asia which I organised with Michael M.J. Fischer in the Program in Science Technology & Society (STS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 2006 to 2008.

During this time,  we hosted anthropologists and historians who presented their in-progress research alongside selected texts and sources on urbanisation in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and America. Please note that the files linked in the posts below are provided solely for purposes of study, research, and education.


Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyProgram in Science Technology & Society (STS)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) E51-185, Cambridge, MA 02139, U.S.A.


1 March: “Hyderabad from Charminar to Cantontment”
Harvard University Department of Indo-Islamic Cultures

15 March: “The Apartment Building in Bombay”

Wellesley College Department of History

5 April: “The Street in South Asia”
Wellesley College Department of History

19 April: “Urban Social Spaces: Adeeb and Adda”
Tufts University Department of History

3 May: “Sex, Work & Migration in Mumbai”

New York University (NYU) Dept of Gender & Sexuality Studies

10 May: “Real Estate Capital & Film Finance in Bombay”

Centre for the Study of Culture & Society (CSCS), Bangalore

3 October: “Patrick Geddes & Town Planning in India”
MIT Seminar on Environmental and Agricultural History

31 October: “Suburbanisation in Colonial Bombay”

Wellesley College Department of History

14 November: “Delhi in Ruins”

Columbia University Department of Anthropology

5 December: “Colonial Planning & Princely Hyderabad”

Harvard University Department of Indo-Islamic Cultures

12 December: “Divine Enterprise in Bangalore”
Emerson College Department of Anthropology


15 March: “Remembering Raj Chandavarkar”

Dartmouth College Department of History

22 March: “Labour, Space & Politics”
Roundtable at the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) Annual Conference, Boston, Mass, 2008
SUBHO BASU, Syracuse University, New York
FRANK F. CONLON, University of Washington, Seattle
DOUGLAS HAYNES, Dartmouth College, New Hampshire
SHEKHAR KRISHNAN, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
NIKHIL RAO, Wellesley College, Massachusetts
LISA TRIVEDI, Hamilton College, New York

2 October: “Street Hawkers, Commodities and Urban Space”

Bard College Department of Anthropology


19 February: “The Making of an Indian Metropolis”
The Making of an Indian Metropolis: Colonial Governance and Public Culture in Bombay, 1860-1920

12 March: “ Making Lahore Modern”
Making Lahore Modern: Constructing and Imagining a Colonial City

2 April: “Urban Hegemony in Bombay”
The Colonial City and the Challenge of Modernity : Urban Hegemonies and Civic Contestations in Bombay City, 1900-1925

23 April: “Delhi’s Urban Governmentalities”
Spaces of Colonialism: Delhi’s Urban Governmentalities

14  May: “Representing Calcutta”
Representing Calcutta: Modernity, Nationalism and the Colonial Uncanny

28 May: “Bangalore’s Twentieth Century”
The Promise of the Metropolis: Bangalore’s Twentieth Century

2 October: “Cinematographs, Celluloid & Cinema in Bombay”
Indian Cinema in the Time of Celluloid: From Bollywood to Emergency

6 November: “Beyond Colonial Urbanism: Cities in South Asia”
Panel at the Urban History Association (UHA) 4th Biennial Conference, Houston, Texas, 2008
WILLIAM J. GLOVER, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
ISHITA PANDE, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario
ERIC LEWIS BEVERLEY, Stony Brook University, New York
NIKHIL RAO, Wellesley College, Massachusetts


Representing Calcutta

Primary Text

Chattopadhyay, Swati. Representing Calcutta: Modernity, Nationalism and the Colonial Uncanny. Routledge, 2006.

Supplementary Texts

Sudipta Kaviraj, “Filth and the Public Sphere: Concepts and Practices about Space in Calcutta”, Public Culture vol.10, no.1 (1997) pp.83-113.

Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Of Garbage, Modernity and the Citizen’s Gaze” in Habitations of Modernity: Essays in the Wake of Subaltern Studies, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002, pp.65-79.

Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Adda: A History of Sociality” in Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000, pp.180-213.

Delhi’s Urban Govermentalities

Primary Text

Stephen Legg. Spaces of Colonialism: Delhi’s Urban Governmentalities. Wiley-Blackwell, 2007.

Supplementary Texts

Stephen P. Blake, Shahjahanabad: The Sovereign City in Mughal India 1639-1739, New Edition (Cambridge University Press, 2002).

Stephen Legg, “Beyond the European Province: Foucault and Postcolonialism,” in Space, Knowledge and Power: Foucault and Geography, ed. Jeremy W. Crampton and Stuart Elden (Ashgate Publishing, 2007).

Stephen Legg, “Ambivalent Improvements: Biography, Biopolitics, and Colonial Delhi,” Environment and Planning A 40, no. 1 (2008): 37-56.

Urban Hegemony in Bombay

Primary Text

Hazareesingh, Sandip. The Colonial City and the Challenge of Modernity : Urban Hegemonies and Civic Contestations in Bombay City 1900-1925. New Delhi: Orient Longman, 2007.

Supplementary Texts

Chopra, Preeti. “Refiguring the Colonial City: Recovering the Role of Local Inhabitants in the Construction of Colonial Bombay, 1854-1918.” Buildings & Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum 14 (2007): 109-125.

Hazareesingh, Sandip. “Colonial Modernism and the Flawed Paradigms of Urban Renewal: Uneven Development in Bombay, 1900–25.” Urban History 28, no. 02 (2001): 235-255.

Hazareesingh, Sandip. “The Quest for Urban Citizenship: Civic Rights, Public Opinion, and Colonial Resistance in Early Twentieth-Century Bombay.” Modern Asian Studies 34, no. 4 (October 2000): 797-829.

The Making of an Indian Metropolis

Primary Text

Kidambi, Prashant. The Making of an Indian Metropolis: Colonial Governance and Public Culture in Bombay, 1860-1920. Ashgate, 2007.

Supplementary Texts

Kidambi, Prashant. “‘An Infection of Locality’: Plague, Pythogenesis and the Poor in Bombay, 1896–1905.” Urban History 31, no. 02 (2005): 249-267.

Kidambi, Prashant. “Housing the Poor in a Colonial City: The Bombay Improvement Trust, 1898-1918.” Studies in History 17, no. 1 (February 1, 2001): 57-79.

Remembering Raj Chandavarkar


Douglas Haynes and Subho Basu, Rajnarayan Chandavarkar, 1953-2006, Economic & Political Weekly, Vol. 41, Issue No. 21, 27 May 2006.

Rajnarayan Chandavarkar, “From Neighbourhood to Nation: The Rise and Fall of the Left in Bombay’s Girangaon in the 20th Century”, introductory essay from Meena Menon and Neera Adarkar, One Hundred Years, One Hundred Voices: The Mill Workers of Girangaon: An Oral History (Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2004).

Chandavarkar, “Workers’ Politics and the Mill Districts in Bombay Between the Wars” from Imperial Power and Popular Politics: Class, Resistance and the State in India, 1850-1950, pp.100-142

Chandavarkar, “Police and Public Order in Bombay, 1880-1947″ from Imperial Power and Popular Politics: Class, Resistance and the State in India, 1850-1950, pp.180-233

Chandavarkar, “Plague Panic and Epidemic Politics in India, 1896-1914″ from Imperial Power and Popular Politics: Class, Resistance and the State in India, 1850-1950, pp.234-265

Patrick Geddes & Town Planning in India

Professor Patrick Geddes, from the Silver Jubilee Souvenir of the Bombay University School of Economics & Sociology, 1947
Professor Patrick Geddes, from the Silver Jubilee Souvenir of the Bombay University School of Economics & Sociology, 1947


Patrick Geddes, Selections from “Cities in Evolution” from Marshall Stalley, ed., Patrick Geddes: Spokesman for Man and the Environment, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1972.

Hellen Meller, “Urbanisation and the Introduction of Modern Town Planning Ideas in India, 1900-1925″ in K.N. Chaudhuri and Clive J. Dewey, eds., Economy & Society: Essays in Indian Social & Economic History, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1979.

Indra Munshi, “Patrick Geddes: Sociologist, Environmentalist, Town Planner” in Economic & Political Weekly, Vol.35, No.6, 5 February 2000.

Ramachandra Guha, “Patrick Geddes and Ecological Town Planning in India”, paper given at the MIT Seminar on Environmental & Agricultural History, March 2006


Geddes, Reports on Re-Planning of Six Towns in Bombay Presidency, 1915. Bombay: Government of Maharashtra Urban Development and Public Health Dept, 1965.

Geddes, Town Planning in Lucknow: A Report to the Municipal Council. Lucknow: Murray’s London Printing Press, 1916.

Geddes, Report on Town Planning, Dacca. Calcutta: Bengal Secretariat Depot, 1917.

Geddes (with H.V. Lanchester), Town Planning in Jubbulpore: A Report to the Municipal Committee. Jubbulpore: Hitkarini Press, 1917.

Geddes, Town Planning towards City Development: A Report to the Durbar of Indore. Indore: Holkar State Printing Press, 1918.

Shree 420

raj420zq1.pngWe will be screening Raj Kapoor’s classic film Shree 420 on TUESDAY 9 MAY 2006 from about 5.45 to 8.45 p.m., with discussion to follow. Released in 1955 and set in Bombay, Shree 420 is one of the most influential products of the booming fifties Bombay film industry, and a canonical representation of urban life in the postcolonial city.

Shree 420 names itself in a contradiction. Article 420 of the postcolonial Indian Penal Code provides juridical sanction for the prosecution of acts of cheating or fraud; Shree is a standard appellation of respect, naming a modern Mister, or denoting a gentleman. And this gentlemanly cheat is, in the text of the film examined here, embodied in the equally ambiguous figure of the subaltern hero Raj Kapoor — the tramp bumbling his way through the gullies and crowded, inhospitable streets of that favoured location of the 1950s popular Hindi cinema: the metropolis of Bombay, the privileged place for the production of the newly independent nation’s identity and the socialist vision. Hailed by cinema audiences throughout the new republic on its release in 1955, Raj Kapoor’s tramp-hero Raju was the cinematic embodiment of an unique historical conjuncture of the new Indian republic. The educated unemployed, the urban proletariat, Partition refugees, and the reformist petty bourgeoisie could all identify with Raju, newly arrived in the steamy concrete jungle of Bombay, following the noisy and irresistible path of the new expansive capitalism in search of distinction, prosperity, and a certain experience of modernity.


sarkar.jpgOur next screening is tomorrow SATURDAY 19 NOVEMBER at 9.00 P.M.

Based on the Godfather, Sarkar (2005) is the last in an unique trilogy of films by director Ram Gopal Varma on the Mumbai criminal-political underworld. Satya (1998), the first film in the series, was a new kind of gangster film which hit the theatres when the city was the setting of major gangland warfare in the mid-nineties. Company (2002), its sequel, was a fictionalised tale of the rise of the real-world Mumbai dons Dawood Ibrahim and his understudy Chhota Rajan (Small Rajan), their subsequent split and war with each other, and the criminal-politician nexus which extends to the highest levels of the state. ‘Satya’ is the Gandhian-Ashokan motto of the Indian state, and ‘Company’ signifies the modern firm, but also the earlier form of the colonial state and its commercial empire. ‘Sarkar’ appropriately finishes this trilogy. Literally translated as ‘government’ but also a term of address to superiors in colloquial Hindi, Sarkar is a cognate for Godfather. Amitabh Bacchan plays a character based on the nativist political boss of Mumbai, Balasaheb Thackeray, chief of the Shiv Sena (Army of Shiv), the party machine which still rules Mumbai politics. Sarkar is about the rise and fall of this party and its ruling family. Along with Satya and Company, Sarkar explores the split domains of organised crime and politics in Mumbai, and related themes of business, morality, and the law.

On request, we will also screen either Satya or Company around 6.30 p.m. tomorrow before the main film.