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Do Buildings Have Agency?


This book review appeared in slightly edited form as “Do Buildings Have Agency?” in Economic and Political Weekly (Mumbai), Vol XLVI No.30, 23 July 2011 Neera Adarkar, ed., The Chawls of Mumbai: Galleries of Life (Gurgaon: imprintOne, 2011) Can built forms have their own subjectivity? Architects, geographers and urban planners would surely answer this question [...]

Skyscrapers and Sweatshops


A shorter version of this essay was published in Mint Lounge on 28 May 2011. Edward Glaeser, Triumph of the City: How our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier (New York: Penguin Press, 2011) The past two decades have seen large cities in North America and Europe decisively rebound from a [...]

A Rule of Property for Bombay


This book review appeared in slightly edited form as “Micro-History of Mumbai” in Economic and Political Weekly (Mumbai), Vol XLV No.36 September 04, 2010.   Mariam Dossal, Theatre of Conflict, City of Hope: Mumbai, 1660 to Present Times (New Delhi: Oxford University Press India, 2010) Historian Mariam Dossal’s new book on Bombay/Mumbai is a major [...]

Open Historical Maps


Open Historical Maps: Crowdsourcing, Open Source GIS, and the Research Web ABCD GIS Group, Harvard Center for Geographic Analysis Wednesday 15 April 2009 from 12.00-14.00 CGIS North Building, Room S050, 1737 Cambridge Street Download Presentation PDF Our presentation will show how open source GIS and curated “crowdsourcing” can create an infinite archive of places for [...]

Taking the Dogs out of the Slum


Slumdog Millionaire has been running since September at the cinema across the street from my apartment in Cambridge. I enjoyed the film when I finally saw it in December, despite the cliched invocation of Bollywood in the concluding song and Danny Boyle’s populism — the last scene of Trainspotting, where Renton “chooses life” by robbing [...]

Swinging In or Swooping Down?


Many years ago, a fellow scholar and I embarked on a novel philological project, which began in the sweaty summer of 2000 with the simple but powerful insight that all text for all news in the English print media in India is essentially generated out of a limited number of words. We thus set out, [...]

Mumbai Terror Dossier


The Hindu has scanned the entire dossier of evidence related to the terrorist attacks on Mumbai on 26-28 November. Their servers seem to be overwhelmed with requests, so I have cached the PDFs for downloading here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 and all parts archived. Dr Singh’s genteel but firm diplomatic [...]

The Story of Whose India?


I just finished watching the first episode of The Story of India on PBS. To see the Aryan invasion theory rehashed so completely is quite shocking on public television. Who is this so-called historian Michael Wood and hasn’t he read Romila Thapar? The show would be infuriating if he weren’t so culturally confused. Check the [...]

Who Sank my Mothership?


Experts, journalists, and film-makers are seeing motherships everywhere. In an interview today on Here and Now with Bob Baer, former CIA analyst for the Middle East, he just let drop the terrifying scenario of a jihadi mothership docking in Baltimore Harbor and launching commando attacks from a swarm of dinghies, in imitation of the attacks [...]

Friends (Almost) Lost


The attacks on Mumbai have stirred memories of friends lost, and almost lost, to terrorism in South Asia. I will never forget the morning in 2002 that I strolled down to my paper-wala’s newstand in Dadar and saw the horrific photo of Danny Pearl in a track suit with a gun to his head, on [...]